Dearth of capable singers

Discussion of all things opera: Wagner, Verdi, Toscanini, Zeffirelli, prelude, leitmotif, Regietheater, etc.
Jim
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Mar 2016, 13:58

Dearth of capable singers

Postby Jim » 16 Dec 2017, 11:45

I recently came across a fairly new site of Conrad L. Osborne an American opera critic. In his preamble he made a statement which resonates with me and has been referred to obliquely here on more than one occasion. He comments on all aspects of opera production, but this one particularly caught my attention.

Here is a direct quote:

"With respect to singing, the crux of the matter is easily, if baldly, stated: there is a worldwide dearth of voices of sufficient calibre and coloristic span to enable even basically satisfactory renderings of many of the greatest classical works, most obviously those of Verdi and Wagner, but extending to most of what still makes up the standard repertory."

We are probably blessed nowadays with more classical singers than at any time in history. In fact we seem to be so oversupplied with singers that there is not enough work for many to make a living at singing, and so there is an abundance of singing teachers. Despite this there is an obvious decline in interest in opera, which has also been discussed here in the past.

On the site he describes opera as being "in an artistic wilderness".

It is interesting that someone of this eminence makes such comments.

I know that Geoff and I have fairly trenchant views on this and it will be interesting to see if anyone else has strong views. Geoff I am not trying to exclude either you or I from this, have at it!

Jim

TifosoBonisolli
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Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 23:47

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 21 Dec 2017, 15:56

I don't concur with the notion of a "decline of interest" in opera. On the contrary, interest in opera is as (socially and geographically) widespread as never before in history. And that (I hate to say so as a fierce advocate of democracy and hence of the dissemination of culture, of education and of opportunities in life) seems to be the core of the problem: the inflow of the (in operatic respects) uneducated has terribly lowered the standards. They have no idea how to behave in a theater, and I'm not thinking of dress codes here: I'm thinking of talking throughout the performance, of taking those ubiquitous plastic water bottles out of handbags and rucksacks, of unscrewing them and taking a pull bang in the middle of the opera's most famous aria or duet, as if it were the most natural thing on Earth; I'm thinking of the smart phone disease that makes it impossible for most everybody in the audience now to endure a full act (not only in Wagner, even a Donizetti act is too long already) without checking email, whatsapp, text messages or whatever else cannot possibly wait until the intermission (let alone until the end of the performance).
And precisely those people fall for the marketing and propaganda machinery of today's opera business and honestly believe that JDF (as they will affectively call him) or Anna Netrebko are true singers, no wait: world-class singers, no wait: the best singers ever!! Ever heard of Claudia Muzio, of Elisabeth Rethberg, of Dmitrij Smirnov, of Tito Schipa? Nope dude, can't even find 'em on Facebook.
Bottom line, opera is now catering to masses of people who have seriously no clue about it. And this business has the singers it merits. There is hardly one among them who can seriously master his profession. In all honesty, I can think of one (in Arabic numerals: 1) contemporary singer who truly commands his voice, and whose voice is perfectly suited to what he sings. You don't necessarily have to love his timbre or his (utterly German) technique - I for one don't - but you have to admire his, for our modern standards, absolutely outstanding masterfulness. And to make things worse, this wonder guy is just intermittently singing opera, mostly only lieder - it's Christian Gerhaher. Everybody, absolutely everybody else in our brave new operatic world is either second-rate (third-, fourth-, tenth-rate), or a charlatan.

Geoff
Posts: 153
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Geoff » 22 Dec 2017, 00:04

Jim old lad,
I agree with you (I'm terrified to do anything else but yes, I do! a touch of humour). I also agree with Tf.B in his follow up post. Unfortunately with the passing of years standards change and the operatic world changes with it. There are good voices out there, I'm sure of it. Commercial interests smother them (nothing new there) and the new generation of opera goers accept it because by and large, their interest stops short of tapping into the great voices of the past, indeed the not-so-far past for that matter and their eyes and ears remain closed. There is always hope however.
Regards
Geoff.

CVAULT1
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Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 17:36

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby CVAULT1 » 14 Jan 2018, 20:56

Opera, at least in the United States, is a fringe form...if it's not pop culture stuff here, it doesn't exist. One need only look at some of the last retrospectives for the year of those who have passed on. You might find a third-string quarterback, or a marginal heavy metal sort who killed himself, but you won't find any of the great conductors, or people like Roberta Peters, Carol Neblett, or Dimitri Hvorostovsky on the list...they weren't pop culture. There are quite a few decent singers around, but they mainly sing in Europe. The Met will wait till they're about half shot till they ask them to sing here, it seems. A tenor of real quality you might want to hear is on some YouTube cuts: Piero Giuliacci is his name. As with one of my other favorite tenors, the late Maurizio Frusoni, he ain't beautiful, but he sure can sing.

Jim
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Mar 2016, 13:58

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Jim » 01 Mar 2018, 10:33

Yes, in USA there seems to be a severe financial crisis in what might loosely be called 'culture'. I very much doubt that culture in Europe is any cheaper than the USA but seems to be supported by populations more readily. I am just back from Vienna and the Concert Halls and and Opera House were full and a large proportion of these were young.
Now the Staatsoper has a full capacity of 2,200 of which 1,709 are seated. This is not small but compared to the Metropolitan Opera is less than half the size with an official seating capacity of 3,800 and I do not know how many standing. At an economic level this may be too expensive to run and difficult to fill.
From the singing point of view, amoungst the singers I know, it is known as a voice wrecker. The Met is one of the great opera houses of the world and it might be said that, to be considered in the great pantheon of singers, it must have been included in their programme. Is it possible that, because of its size, singers may wish to be well advanced in their career to risk it?
Quality of voice and technique is not at issue here. No matter how good technique ,is there are physical limits as to what a voice can do. Large voiced singers suitable for something the size of the Met are few and far between.
Even without this I feel that young singers are not fully trained when they rush out into a very tough career. This is not helped by managements being only concerned with the show currently running and putting young under trained singers in eminently unsuitable roles. Appearance and acting ability often seems more important than singing ability.
Jim

Geoff
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Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Geoff » 09 Mar 2018, 23:31

As an example of capable singers, I'm happy to champion the cause of Peter Guijsbertson, who is steadliy making a name for himself but not quickly enough in opera IMO. Then again I remember the words of celebrated bass Peter Dawson, when it came to opera, "too much effort for too little money." In the meantime we are left to swallow the plaudits piled upon the sainted Kaufmann. I agree with comments about the US Pop culture (just listen to the mangling of pop stars and the Star Spangled Banner), but;.. Opera politics rule.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjowdwNIbYE
Regards,
Geoff

Geoff
Posts: 153
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Geoff » 10 Mar 2018, 00:28

And just for good measure, here's another tenor who impresses me. Whether he has operatic aspirations I don't know but on listening to this Schubert, there's a lot to like about him. I'm still convinced that the operatic voices are out there but as I've said before ... Opera Politics.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmsATz9uQA0

As an aside, I'm old enough to recall the excellent Briitsh tenor Charles Craig. Covent Garden should have treasured him but did they? Not on your life ! The saying 'a prophet is not without honour save in his own country' springs to mind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmsATz9uQA0

Oh well !

Regards,
Geoff.

Geoff
Posts: 153
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Geoff » 10 Mar 2018, 02:02

Sorry about that. Charles Craig.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFgurGq55v
Regards,
Geoff.

Geoff
Posts: 153
Joined: 07 Jan 2016, 17:17

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Geoff » 10 Mar 2018, 02:05

Oh dear, I can't win ! Just have a look at Youtube !!
Geoff.

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Jimlejim
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Joined: 04 Jan 2016, 05:50

Re: Dearth of capable singers

Postby Jimlejim » 27 Mar 2018, 22:02

The youtube link doesn't work!
Tenor freak. :D


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