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 » 18 Jan 2016, 19:29

TifosoBonisolli wrote: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.
Wow, I never did quite notice how the 'precious' sound you mentioned which I find completely true could get in the way of proper phonetic pronunciation. Although, I won't fault her entirely for her poor french the german is inexcusable... especially with a career based in the musical arts of the language. Lotte Lehmann is my go to lieder singer, so I can definitely get behind your comparison and Rethberg is of course wonderful as always. If I remember correctly, lieder at one point was an art that the best singers of their time would preform, now it seems as time progresses we become much lazier with lieder to the point of using it as vocalizes that train singers.

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Lambert
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Lambert » 18 Jan 2016, 20:40

TifosoBonisolli wrote:
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 ;)
I agree he sounds a bit on the light side.

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Jimlejim
Posts: 98
Joined: 04 Jan 2016, 05:50

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Jimlejim » 19 Jan 2016, 18:10

TifosoBonisolli wrote: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.
Does anyone else think Tifo's colorful descriptions are the best? :D :D :D
Tenor freak. :D

a57se
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Joined: 18 Jan 2016, 21:04

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby a57se » 20 Jan 2016, 19:52

A lot of the singers listed as 'falso mitti' wouldn't even qualify as 'famous'...

The problem with judging Caruso is that all we have are his recordings to go by and they really don't show what he was like on stage.
They were limited recordings where the tempi would be varied to fit the aria on the cylinder/disc, they were very limited aurally and did not catch the higher harmonics of the voice. He did revolutionize the opera world for tenors and many of his critics were Jean de Reske fans so Caruso WOULD seem vulgar to them when compared to de Reske but Caruso's singing was much more in line with modern ideas of the tenor voice.
Caruso was no more vulgar then Corelli or Del Monaco or DiStefano...

TifosoBonisolli
Posts: 69
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 23:47

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 20 Jan 2016, 21:25

Actually, Caruso was no more vulgar (in fact, much less vulgar) than Corelli, del Monaco or di Stefano - but that's exactly one of the problems: the negative influence that Caruso had on later generations of singers.
And the "limited" recordings of the time are yet another mito falso - every recording from 1902 onwards shows the voice just as it is, no limitations (for the first few years after 1902, one might still argue for bright-timbred sopranos, but not for many years, and certainly for no other type of voice). This is easy indeed to prove since there are many, many singers who lived (and sang) long enough made both early acoustical and electrical recordings - just think of Fugère, or of de Luca, or Nezhdanova, or Mařák, or loads of others. What changes over time is just the natural ageing of the voices, but all of them are easily recognizable as exactly the same voice of 20 or 25 years ago...
And above all, your arguments read as if we had no other singers on record than Caruso from his period - but we have hundreds of them, from the most famous tenors like de Lucia, Anselmi, Bonci, Affre, Escalaïs, Davydov, Leliwa all the way to the completely unknown like Andrea Maggi, Émilie-Frantz Sardet or Giuseppe Lenghi-Cellini: all contemporaries of Caruso, all recorded with the very same "limited" recording equipments, and none of them nearly as vulgar as Caruso.

a57se
Posts: 23
Joined: 18 Jan 2016, 21:04

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby a57se » 20 Jan 2016, 22:36

Well, perhaps you could explain what you mean by 'vulgar' singing, we may have very differnet understandings of what that means.

oddjobman
Posts: 32
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 08:23

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby oddjobman » 21 Jan 2016, 00:14

TifosoBonisolli wrote: And the "limited" recordings of the time are yet another mito falso - every recording from 1902 onwards shows the voice just as it is, no limitations (for the first few years after 1902, one might still argue for bright-timbred sopranos, but not for many years, and certainly for no other type of voice). This is easy indeed to prove since there are many, many singers who lived (and sang) long enough made both early acoustical and electrical recordings
There is a BBC series on singers and singing (I can't remember the exact name of the series) hosted by Antonio Pappano. During the programme he discussed Caruso. Juan Diego Florez was asked to use the cylinder recording m/c of Caruso's era to make a recording. The voice from the play back was nothing like the voice of Florez himself. They concluded that its not possible to know the true voice of Caruso because of the limitation of the recording technology at the time.

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 21 Jan 2016, 20:07

Ok, my mistake - I've violated internet posting commandment no. 1, "thou shalt never take for granted that your own knowledge is everybody's standard". But you, a57se, shouldn't violate that commandment either, nor should Pappano & Flórez.

One after another, first come, first served: a57se, what is vulgar about Caruso's singing? First of all, you may well have a different understanding from mine what vulgar singing is, but we're not talking about your understanding here, nor about mine. What I criticized about Caruso is that his singing was vulgar "for the standards of the period" - standards that you don't necessarily have to make your own, but you have to understand them if you want to understand operatic singing. Certainly, if you're firmly rooted in our brave new operatic world, and if thus your standard for vulgar singing is Massimo Giordano, you'll perceive Jonas Kaufmann as incredibly subtle and refined. But in the early 20th century, even a singer like Nellie Melba (whom I've briefly discussed on this thread) thought of Caruso as a coarse singer. (Note: a "refined" singer is not necessarily a good singer, cf. Melba, nor is a "vulgar" singer necessarily a bad singer - people like Corelli or del Monaco can be, in all their vulgarity, quite exciting at times, and you may even find that more appropriate than a Schipa-like approach for certain roles; but it's still vulgar, and for a listener from the early 20th century, it would be intolerably vulgar, and the excitement wouldn't count, or it would probably count as plain laughable.)
In medias res: I'll be fair with Caruso, too (also because, as I said earlier, he was by no means a bad singer, just his mythical status is undeserved), and choose only famous and successful examples among his recordings. One of his very best (and one that I really like) is "Apri la tua finestra", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9DJa9e_AM, from 1902. He is in splendid, youthful voice, and there is nothing wrong with the recording. But now listen to Fernando de Lucia, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIJ09KTBZK8. Since you, a57se, violated internet posting commandment no. 1 by stating that some of the singers discussed here were "not even famous", I shouldn't violate it again and presuppose that you know how famous Fernando de Lucia is, so here goes: de Lucia was one of the international top stars at the end of the 19th century. Most of his recordings were made at a time when he had essentially become a baritone, but instead of switching to baritone roles like Domingo e.g., de Lucia chose to retire from the operatic stage and to give only (infrequent) concerts where he would continue to sing tenor arias, but in baritone key. And so almost every of his recordings is much transposed because he didn't simply have a tenor top anymore. Which doesn't change in any way how incredibly much we can learn about style, musicality and vocal technique of the late 19th century from his recordings. And don't say "but that's not what Mascagni had in mind, he was a verismo composer". The opposite is true: de Lucia was the true verismo singer (for his contemporaries, his style was incredibly and sometimes shockingly modern), and Mascagni wrote the tenor role in Iris for him. Ok, and now go back to Caruso's recording. It's still beautiful, but he is lacking everything that a star tenor of the preceding generation was required to master: his messa di voce and his legato can in no way compare with de Lucia's, his musicality is not sufficient for inventing all those little ornaments that a relevant singer was expected to invent (listen what de Lucia does at 0:22), his attempts at piano singing (at 1:42 for instance) are actually quite nice, but what a difference to de Lucia's mastership! (from 0:40 to 0:48 for instance, or from 1:21 to 1:27), Caruso starts biting certain tones already at this young age (what he does on the word "sol" at 1:53 is actually less than beautiful), and he already starts pushing, as well (the long acuto that starts at 1:26 is unsteady, keeps sliding away, and the same problem recurs at 2:08). If we now take into consideration that Caruso was 29 but de Lucia was 59 when they made their respective recordings...
Second example (de Lucia, this time, in a far superior and actually perfect CD transfer, this is how he should really sound): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxJzarm6cjY vs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbOPoYMxel4. It's just enough to listen to the first 50 seconds of de Lucia's recording, and to the respective part of Caruso's (2:17 to 2:48), and you'll understand what "vulgar" means. Caruso just sounds like a modern tenor (a good modern tenor, no doubt!), and that's exactly the problem: so many nuances, so many shades of vocal expression are lost in this gung-ho style of singing. If you now say "if already Caruso's voice production is gung-ho, then Jonas Kaufmann can't be called a singer at all", I'm certainly the last one to dissent.
And de Lucia is of course not the only one to prove my point. Here comes another Caruso classic, Cielo e mar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vip8-9Ufqo; and here his contemporary (actually, three years his junior) Giuseppe Anselmi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Loxyeh97zg. Let me just point out what Anselmi does at 3:26 - ever heard such a marvellous ornament from Caruso? Listen to Caruso from 1:49 to 2:12 - beautiful for somebody who grew up with Domingo and Pavarotti, no? But listen to the respective phrase in Anselmi's version, from 3:31 to 3:55 - another fantastic little ornamentation at 3:49, and the beautiful messa di voce at the end of the high b at 3:53... delicacies from a long, long by-gone era.
Ah yes, one more stunning de Lucia example, this time in a role that admittedly didn't suit Caruso perfectly: Rodolfo in Bohème. But he doesn't do much wrong for modern standards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FFRrfUUChY. However, there is not one single note that can compare with de Lucia's absolutely stunning refinement, which is (as is often the case with de Lucia) only in completely wrong speed on Youtube, but you can hear it here: http://redmp3.cc/5481361/fernando-de-lu ... dolfo.html.
Final example, another particularly famous Caruso recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hn3JVAptKk. The tone-biting here goes beyond my limit of tolerance; he even bites tones that are not at all exposed, like the poor, innocent "c'est" at 3:45, or the "livre" at 3:51. And now listen to Léonce-Antoine Escalaïs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkaQo9YgmdA, and there you have a heroic tenor who is capable of combining vocal power and elegance. (Arguably, Escalaïs is cold and less human in comparison, but that's not the point here: I'm discussing coarse vs. smooth voice production, not vocal acting here.)

oddjobman, now for Pappano and Flórez. That experiment was of course completely nonsensical: (1) Cylinders were an extremely difficult recording medium; even at their time, few engineers were able of recording them properly. Very obviously, nobody can do that today - putting a modern recording engineer in front of a cylinder recording equipment is exactly like putting an 1897 recording engineer who has never seen a microphone in front of a digital stereo recording equipment. The result, in both cases, must be devastating. The last person who might (might!!) have been able to record a cylinder properly was the great German record collector (and retired recording engineer) Horst Wahl, who died several years ago. (2) Flórez is the last singer who should try such a recording. For an acoustical recording horn (even for records, all the more so for cylinders), you had to have a real voice; Flórez needs a microphone even in an opera theater (much easier to master for a singer than an acoustical recording!) if he wants to be heard in a role as "dramatic" as Duca di Mantova... with René Pape's large voice, the result would perhaps been different. (3) If early recording equipments were so terribly limited, then they should make those early singers sound worse than they actually did. So why do they sound so much better than their modern successors?
Actually, hardly anything is as easy to prove as the faithful reproduction of the human voice even by very early recordings. Please listen again to Caruso's "Apri la tua finestra", see above; it's from 1902. Listen for example to this Caruso recording from 1918: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KweYyXb-8J8 - it's, though more mature and (naturally) aged, the same voice, right? So the recording process didn't change that much from 1902 to 1918. Now hear Beniamino Gigli in 1918 (another "Apri la tua finestra", for a maybe interesting comparison): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGUdxrjMtYg; and a Gigli recording from 1928: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65w7iUIXT7A - it's the same voice, just (slightly) more mature. So also the difference between acoustical (1918) and electrical (1928) recording process didn't change anything substantial, as far as the human voice is concerned (it's of course a very different story for the piano or the orchestra!). Parenthesis: one more direct comparison between 1902 and 1928 - same song, same singer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDMfkUEWPjM (just in case anybody shouldn't know, Lucien Fugère was another REALLY famous singer, in fact a mito, but entirely a mito giusto). As everybody can easily recognize, it's the same voice in 1902 and 1928, just that it's obviously much older in 1928 (though aurally, you'd never guess just HOW old: Fugère was 80 by then!!).
So we've now established that from 1902 to 1928, the capturing of the human voice didn't change substantially. On we go, back to Gigli, forward to the early LP era, 1949: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i65gTptGig. It's still the same voice, just that Gigli is now 59 while he was 28 and 38, respectively, in the two earlier recordings. At about the same time as this third Gigli recording, Nicolai Gedda made his first appearances in the recording studio; please go to 1:00:11 in this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxODr9VvXeo complete recording. And here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWmqIR_dkko, we have Gedda in the same aria, but in 1997. He is in rather terrible form (not surprisingly since he's already 72 and certainly no Fugère), but his voice is basically unchanged and immediately recognizable as the same voice of 1953.
Bottom line: no substantial changes in how recordings capture the human voice from 1902 to 1997 (and of course, to 2016, as well).

TifosoBonisolli
Posts: 69
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 23:47

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 21 Jan 2016, 20:20

Ah yes, one thing that I forgot to mention about Caruso: you can hear in his recordings how he lost his voix mixte over the years - it's fine in the earliest recordings, but later on, he would push his chest voice up as far as he could. And that's one of his most vulgar qualities, and one of his most devastating with respect to the following generations that copied this singing style.

oddjobman
Posts: 32
Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 08:23

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby oddjobman » 22 Jan 2016, 00:39

TifosoBonisolli wrote:Ok, my mistake - I've violated internet posting commandment no. 1, "thou shalt never take for granted that your own knowledge is everybody's standard".
Of course you are right. Thank you for exposing your encyclopedic knowledge. My apologies for wasting the space of the forum


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