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Subject: Re: Tosca in general
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 18 Jun 2017 16:12:25 -0700

text/plain (164 lines)

I think I will weigh in on this and ramble a bit.  First off, Ponselle
might have been tempted to do Tosca but in her years at the Met it was the
almost sole property of Maria Jeritza who was one of Puccini's favorites.
Jeritza was a massive star - up there with Ponselle and Rethberg.  By the
time Jeritza left the Met Ponselle might have had second thoughts about
Tosca.  Jeritza had been the Met's Minnie after Destinn and its first
Turandot.  Milanov's Met Tosca's came twenty-five years into the roll for
her - it was one of her first assignments in Yugoslavia and she had a
notable success with it in the early forties in Buenos Aires.  In the 40's
at the Met it was the property of Grace Moore and Milanov didn't have the
clout to demand it if she wanted it - remember, she and Johnson had a
mutual dislike for each other.  As for Sondra Radvanovsky, if I am not
mistaken, Tosca was in her rep before Norma and there is no reason a great
Norma can't be a great Tosca.  If you can sing the role, you can sing the
role.  Period.  Certain things you don't sing together in the same season,
but singing is singing and technique is technique.  I'd love to hear Sondra
as Minnie and even Turandot.  She has the top, the volume, the cut and
edge, and the technique to pretty much do whatever she wants.

The French language excerpts with Crespin date to 1961, a year when the
voice had no problems.  Paul Finel is the Cavaradossi and I believe Rene
Bianco is the Scarpia.  Pretre conducts.  It presents a good part of her
Tosca and is fabulous.  If you can find it, there is a French language
Otello with Crespin as Desdemona and the great Jose Luccioni as Otello.  I
believe it from 1955 and it too is fabulous.  For the first 15 years of her
career, she really was a French Tebaldi (of course, she was half Italian).
Another of my favorite Tosca's was Leonie Rysanek.  It's probably a good
sample of what Jeritza's Tosca was like.  It was all over the place,
hystrionically and vocally but wow, those top notes were - hit you in the
eyes like the proverbial great pizza pie....for me it was amore....

I heard Tebaldi's Tosca late in her career and she was fabulous even if the
top was problematic.  Albanese did have secure and fairly big top notes,
but the rest of the voice was small, the chest register virtually
non-existent and for me, this negates any positive qualities she had as
Tosca.  Yes, I've heard the broadcast and yes, she nails much of the role,
but it really wasn't for her voice.  Tosca needs three things, voice, more
voice and conviction.  Albanese succeeded on conviction, she really didn't
have the voice for the role.  Kirsten was a whole other thing.  Yes, she
was a lyric soprano but she had a spinto cut to the voice, brilliant,
perfectly placed and produced high notes and she knew how to use her voice
with the proper accents on the consonants.  Its an old Italian vocal trick
probably learned from her training in Italy in the 30's.  She also had
strength in the middle and at the bottom of her voice.

The point is, there are no set rules.  Each singer, each voice in
individual and it is best to know what suits you and what doesn't.  Freni
had a soft grained, luxurious voice.  It was sizeable.  Probably three
sizes bigger than Albanese but Albanese had cut at the top of the voice.
She also seems to have gotten Tosca out of her system rather quickly.  I
don't think it was in her rep very long.  Of course, at the end, after she
left the Met she did some silly things like Aida, but what the heck, she
was already in her late 50's and had nothing to lose.

Enough rambling - its about 110 here in Fountain Hills and I am going to
jump in the pool.


On Sun, Jun 18, 2017 at 1:22 PM, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> It kind of surprises me (a little) that Tosca should generate so much
> discussion here.
> Perhaps I've tired of it, but I of course was greatly thrilled by it when
> I first heard it as a
> teen.  Of course I was raised on the legendary Callas/di Stefano/Gobbi -
> de Sabada
> recording, but I also later acquired those Tosca recordings with Tebaldi,
> Milanov, Caballe,
> Freni, Price, and others.
>       Denounce me as a Philistine if you will, but I have a hard time
> wrapping my head
> around the fact that every great soprano with an even moderate sized voice
> has taken on
> Tosca.  Rosa Ponselle was a very wise artist.  She is the only major great
> soprano who,
> to my knowledge, never went near it.  Freni recorded it twice, but (also
> to my
> knowledge) never attempted Tosca onstage.
>       The role itself, while glamorous and containing the "Visi d'Arte",
> is to my ears very
> punishing for the soprano voice.  Of course, it's the second act that's so
> dangerous, what
> with all that screaming and carrying-on with Scarpia to be interrupted by
> the need for a
> perfectly beautiful and controlled vocal line for the aria, followed by
> more screaming and
> carrying on to the end of the act ------ which makes me wonder why so many
> truly great
> sopranos have chosen to undertake it.  The third act is no piece of cake
> either.
>       I was very disappointed that Sondra Radvanovsky choose to do Tosca
> on the stage. In
> my opinion, I can't see why a notable Norma would even want to bother with
> Tosca. Most
> of Callas' Toscas were at the end of her career, with just a small number
> peppered during
> her prime years (the Met, where Bing offered her little else other than
> Violetta and Lucia
> and those debut Normas).  She herself admitted her dislike for the role.
>  Albanese, who
> actually had a huge enough top (surprisingly), managed to achieve a good
> success with it
> at the Met in 1952 and 1957).  Tebaldi had the beauty of appearance, a
> huge voice, and
> could manage the top Cs well enough prior to 1960.  After that, the
> extreme uppermost
> portion of her voice (B and C) was a matter of pot luck.  But she still
> could deliver a
> grand and valid Tosca.  Finally, despite two complete studio recordings
> (and a 1962
> performance on Sony from the Met), Leontyne Price also discarded the role.
>      The best Tosca I ever heard onstage was Regine Crespin, who produced
> a second act
> (with Gobbi) that remains forever burned into my brain ------- and her
> voice at the time
> was huge and abundant right up to the top C.  But by the late 1960's, she
> dropped the
> role and never made a commercial recording of it.  I never saw Callas do
> it, except on
> those two videos of Act II from 1958 and 1964), but I can certainly see
> why she caused
> so much excitement in it).
>      Dorothy Kirsten is to me an amazing and vastly under-rated soprano.
> She sang all
> the Puccini roles with great distinction, stopping only at Turandot.  How
> she managed it is
> still a mystery to me.  I think she was a victim of bad timing (singing in
> a generation that
> already had Callas, Tebaldi, Milanov, Steber, Price, Crespin, etc.)
>      Bottom line:  Tosca can be as dangerous for the voice as Turandot.
> It's a very "big
> sing" and I think it's popularity has encouraged a lot of sopranos to
> undertake it, and
> some have paid a price.  Smarter artists try to sing it as little as
> possible.  Others should
> follow Ponselle's and Freni's example and not sing it at all.
> **********************************************
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