It has been interesting to read forum members thoughts on your Cheryl Studer thread martin-opera. I think singers with such a distinctive and unusual vocal timbre like Cheryl Studer has tend to divide opinion. I remember years ago critics commenting on the beauty of her voice and thinking that it didn't quite match my own perception of what I would describe as beautiful, certainly not in a conventional way. Listening to her recordings then and now there are times when I hear so much pressure applied to the somewhat over-resinous tone (to my ears) as she approaches notes above the stave I squirm thinking that she won't reach the note and screech instead just like Renata Scotto did on her later recordings. But then she hits it, not always dead centre on the note but she hits it and I am relieved until the next phrase comes along. And yet when she sings gently on a thread of tone how sensuous and pure she could sound almost defining in sound the meaning of the often used word, ethereal.
Then there is her formidable technique and a trill to die for, surely only bested by Dame Joan herself. I have a book on opera singers from an italian author who remarks in an article on Cheryl Studer - "poor Cheryl Studer, a singer without a fach". His theme is that because she sang such a wide range of roles in many different works she seemed to be continually searching for roles which suited her best but didn't really master any. I don't know if I subscribe to that view and yet listening to some of her performances on disc I have at times thought that Ms Studer's interpretation was not fully realised and that she could do so much more. In particular I am thinking of her Traviata with Levine or her Donna Anna with Muti where Carol Vaness sings Donna Elvira instead of Donna Anna. A comparison with Vaness' Donna Anna under Haitink or say Ileana Cotrubas' Traviata reveals what is lacking with Studer's interpretation.
Of course, none of this will stop me listening to Ms Studer when the mood takes me and I look forward to adding the soon to be re-released version of Die frau ohne Schatten with Studer as the Empress as well as her Salome to my collection which I have held off from purchasing for far too long. And I would like to add a plea to Deutsche Grammophon to reissue Studer's version of Rossini's Semiramide.
Tagalie - you are quite right - it is Troyen. Apologies to you tagalie (and to Troyen and Parla) - of course I don't mean feud; I mean spirited debate that sometimes takes forum members away from the points being discussed (Exhibit A - How to Find the Best Recordings). Thanks for all the Studer related replies though. What are our collective thoughts on Katia Ricciarelli?? Perhaps a fan could do an appreciation?
Caballe - wise words (as ever). I am struck by the comment about her lacking a fach. Do you think this is because her 'natural' fach e.g. lyric leaning towards dramatic lyric was over populated and the record companies and producers pushed her out of her natural fach into heavier roles. A little like RCA and Anna Moffo or DG and Katia Ricciarelli.
I love the Semiramide and it is a rare reminder of the distinctive voice of Frank Lopardo - whose somewhat nasal tone I liked alot: quite different from the likes of Florez and Brownlee. Of course it also features the brilliant Jennifer Larmore, whose CDs I reach for ahead of Bartoli's.
Hey, Martin, basta! In a while, we will open up the whole book of Soprano voices.
Anyone who dares may open the book of the less popular Baritone voice (perhaps something for Bastianini or Waren) or even about Basses (who remembers and appreciates the unique voice of Marti Talvela?).
So, good luck.
I certainly do remember Talvela, and was playing some of his
recordings of Mussorgsky songs only a couple of evenings ago. A superb bass,
with a rare quality among basses of being able to sing softly and tenderly whilst
still retaining a solid, coherent sound. His Pimen was a fine achievement in my
Basses and baritones really are my favourite voice categories,
and I’m sure I could bore for Britain on the subject. If there’s a forthcoming
Verdi Requiem, live or recorded, I first look at who the bass will be before I
consider anything else. I have been listening this afternoon to some recordings
of Francesco Navarini and Pol Plancon and contrasting them with some moderns
(Ramey, Siepi, Pape etc). Historic recordings are, of course, not to everyone’s
taste and some simply can’t take the sonic limitations, but it is fascinating
to compare and contrast.
Eventually, we found an area of common interest, JKH. Talvela was for me the most menacing and vocally superb Sparafucile as well as a unique and very imposing Sarastro. His Great Inquisitor is unsurpassed.
Other basses that mark my musical journey to Opera are Pinza (what a range), Siepi (great musicianship), Ghiaurov (amazingly solid) and the extraordinary Boris Christov. In the German field, the amazing Frick, Kurt Moll (serious singer and consistent) and the underrated Karl Riderbusch (I hope I spell his name correctly).
(It's funny how the Studer thread turned to that "low register")!
Well, I suspect we’ve probably got more in common musically than you might think!
For me, Pinza is the absolute nonpareil of the Italian basso cantante and his range, both vocally and dramatically, was astonishing. If you haven’t heard the Met Don Giovanni under Bruno Walter, you should do so. It may not be our modern view of Mozart, but my, what a performance! And Kipnis (not exactly bad casting for a Leporello!) with his somewhat garbled and comic Italian patter adds to the enjoyment, I feel.
The other names you mention are all wonderful singers. Frick’s voice was one of the most beautiful bass instruments ever, solid from top to bottom. His recording (in German) of the Don Carlos aria is one of my absolute favourites, an extremely tender and moving performance.
Historically, some favourites are Adamo Didur, Chaliapin (of course), De Angelis (whose very early recordings are of astonishing maturity for a young man) and Pasero.
In modern times, the most exciting voice I’ve heard was Sam Ramey (again, what a range) and I must not forget to mention the most sheerly beautiful sound I’ve ever heard any singer make, bar none, in any vocal category, live or recorded – Gwynne Howell. I’m not arguing he was the greatest bass, or the most profound, or my favourite to see on stage etc etc. It’s just that on the simple level of the actual sound he makes, for me it is just utterly beautiful.
Parla / JKH - Totally agree with you on Talvela: his voice on records stands out from the crowd on recordings like The Magic Flute, Don Carlos, Mahler 8, Tristan and (my favourite) The Seasons with Karl Bohm.
His is what I call a "pitch black" voice which seems solid through to its core; no wobble, rarely a soft edge and little reverbaration: when he stops singing the sound ends. I would put Leonard Warren in this category of "pitch black" voices too.
If we're talking of neglected basses and baritones I always felt that Mario Sereni should have been given more opportunities on records. I love his timbre and he always adds so much to the recordings he appears on.
Martin, with the "Studer" thread, you will open the whole opera/voices book!
Opera is not my beloved form of music. From my thread on Chamber music, you may understand that I care much more about the Instrumental one, in all its forms (up to full Symphonic). However, I love voices! They are the best instrument, after all.
As for Sereni, I am with you. What about Corena? In his own field, I think he was almost unsurpassed. So, go on.
Martin, I've always been somewhat ambivalent about Warren. Whilst respecting his undoubted status as one of the great baritones, he’s never a first choice for me, though I have many of his recordings. I always thought him more concerned with producing the perfect sound, which always seemed to me to be rather ‘thick’ sounding – someone who heard him frequently at the Met described it as a ‘potato in the mouth’ sound. However I began to revise my opinion when I heard some live recordings from the Met where the voice is in an acoustic which captures some idea captured in an acoustic which allows one to appreciate the effect the voice must have had in the theatre. If you haven’t heard the 1945 Met Rigoletto with Bjӧrling on Naxos (though other transfers exist), you should do so without delay!
I completely agree about Sereni. I have always loved his sound, a true Italian baritone. He was unfortunate to be around when there was so much competition in the field – Warren, Bastianini, Merrill, Capucilli, MacNeill etc. Particularly galling when in recent years we’ve had to put up with the likes of Hampson, Hvorotsovsky and Carlo Guelfi in Verdi.
The finest baritone in the Italian repertoire in my time was, in my opinion, Giorgio Zancanaro, whose voice and style had real echoes of a golden age. I never heard him give a bad performance and he is the only baritone whose voice reminds me of my all-time ideal baritone, Pasquale Amato. They had a very similar bell-like core to their voices which I find irresistible.
Since we open the book of Opera/voices good enough, let me contribute my view on the Bass-baritone field:
In the Dramatic Bassbariton, Hans Hotter is the unique and uncontestable voice. His diction, power of expression and his intelligent singing made him the "striking" one. George London was the closest possible, but still less. James Morris and Bryn Terfel simply follow...behind.
In the Lyric Bassbariton, ther is no that much to admire. I like the artistry and the amazing effort of Thomas Quastoff.
Finally, in the Heldenbariton (the Heroic Bariton), my hero was Thomas Stewart and for the beauty of his voice (an authoritative mature sound plus his exciting power) Eberhardt Waechter.
That's for the moment, folks. The book is still open. More contributions?..
I may be sticking my neck out here but I think the Studer/Domingo/Marin Lucia is the most enjoyable version on disc.
Everybody goes for it and produces a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck tingle for me and that is what Italian opera is all about.
As for Callas, well, I suggest some of you read Desmond Shawe-Taylors reviews of her recordings in the Gramophone Archive and see whether you agree with him. As I become more familiar with her legacy with age I am beginning to swing towards his point of view. Besides, Serafin, more responsible than others for reviving the work, makes stupid senseless cuts.
Callas was never the "reference" Lucia. The "stupid senseless cuts" had been occurred in the second Serafin's Lucia, on account of Callas limitations of that period (early sixties). In the first one of 1952, the work is practically as we know it (with all the coloraturas in the "mad scene", etc.).
The Studer version is truly enjoyable, in many ways, but Signora Cheryl cannot reach the solid and incredibly beautiful voice, very secure technique, amazing stamina and the authority of performance of Dame Joan. Both commercial Lucias of Sutherland on Decca are "reference" performances; the first mostly for herself, the second for the whole cast and conductor. Even the recent "live" one from Opera Australia shows the great command of the role, at an advance age.
It was not 1952 but 1953, there is, of course, Berlin 1955 and London 1959.
I did not say Callas was the "reference" Lucia but I know many who, for all her faults, less apparent in '53, would prefer her any day of the week to La Stupenda. You pays yer money and takes yer choice, although these days one can have both as LPs were exorbitantly expensive in the fifties (the Gramophone campaigned against the imposition of Purchase Tax-a forunner of VAT) and sixties.
In fact, because the '53 recording was a revival of the work and despite the "theatre" cuts( and they are in this recording-you only need but listen) and, for its time, the poor recording I will stick my neck out again and say that this is the "reference" the "benchmark" recording.
However, I view it more, these days, as a "historical document" and find the Studer assumption such a relief in DG's fine sound.
And you seriously think that Bonynge is as subtle a conductor as Serafin?
To start from your last question? I hope you don't think Marin is a "subtle" maestro, even generally speaking. Bonynge worked pretty well with his wife and both could deliver (actually recreate) the age of Belcanto and the Art of Singing...beautifully and with the utmost precision and conviction. Unfortunately, after them, nobody cared even to mention how and why he/she decided to perform the work in question the way it was performed.
As for the Callas/Sutherland feud, I am altogether in favour of La Stupenda for her unique voice, unparalleled technique, command of her Art, consistency in the precision and accuracy of the actual recreation of the work in question and the amazing faith in the music she had to sing. Her voice by quite a few people in the business has been recognized as "The voice of the (20th) century". Even if we don't want to believe it, she was one of the very very few incredible voices we happen to encounter.
Callas is the other side of the coin, where eventually the actual performance (acting, living and recreating the role) counts more than the voice (in any case she had a dubiously beautiful voice), technique (it was not her prime interest) or recreation of an era. I believe she was, from that viewpoint, the "reference" singer not only of Lucia, but of practically anything she sang. The question is whether we have to espouse this viewpoint. The problem is that many tried to follow her, but they failed, because her "art" was so personal (it could work for her, but not for any other). On the contrary, Sutherland's "school" can be followed, under certain conditions. And we see it even today (Damrau, Dessay, etc.) somehow...
Anyhow, I'm afraid we won't see this sort of unique artists and great in any possible way singers.