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Subject: Re: The Met's Audience
From: Premiere Opera <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Premiere Opera <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 7 Apr 2009 00:58:01 -0400

text/plain (159 lines)

I believe it's the "dumbing down" of opera that makes people cheer for

Many never heard the real greats of the 20th century, so they think that
whatever they hear is great, because it is the best they have heard.

Many may accuse me of being an old fuddy duddy, so accuse all you wish. It
just ain't the same, that's all. There are very few voices that thrill
today. Today, opera is as much if not more about singers who look good than
singers who sing good.

Some of the very greatest singing I ever heard in more than 50 years of
going to the opera came from people who were short and not considered
particularly handsome or beautiful. There were always exceptions, of course,
but, except for Corelli, almost every great tenor of the past 50 years and
more fit this description.

When opera lovers today are surrounded with such mediocrity, they will
choose what they consider to be the best of this mediocrity, and cheer for
him or her as if Flagstad of Gigli had returned.

Please don't get me wrong. There are many fine singers today, but very few,
if any, really great singers. Mediocrity reigns, and has for perhaps 30
years, with some notable exceptions, of course.

I still go to the opera very often, and enjoy myself. But- I often find that
it is the voices I heard many years ago that I hear in my minds ear. Can I
ever do better than an Otello with del Monaco, Tebaldi, and Warren? I don't
think so, and nothing has come close in 50 years. I cannot listen or begin
to see Manon Lescaut without the memory of being thrilled to death with
Tebaldi and Tucker in this opera, both at the old Met and at the new Met. My
first Boheme was the Toscanini cast, but in 1959. Albanese, Peerce, etc. I
was in heaven. I have nothing but the fondest and greatest memories of
everything I saw Carlo Bergonzi sing, but the tenor who thrilled me the most
and the most consistantly had to be Tucker, without a doubt. Maybe Caruso
was better, but I can't imagine anyone better, for me.

There are some wonderful sopranos singing today, but we have very few spinto
tenors to match them. Tenors sing Trovatore who shouldn't be singing
anything much heavier than Nemorino. And the audience cheers.

I don't think we've had a great Otello since Mario del Monaco. His voice was
a visceral force of nature such as I have never heard since. Was there ever
a more "creamy" and gorgeous sound than that possessed by Tebaldi? Not in my
No baritone has come close to Warren, MacNeil, or Merrill in 30 years or
more. Not for me, anyway.

Now we have baritones that sound like tenors singing Verdi, and tenors
singing baritone roles. The opera world has gone crazy in some ways, I

I have over two weeks worth of music on my Itunes, and listen to it whenever
I am at the computer. Right now, believe it or not, I am listening to Al
Jolson recordings from the 1920's and 30's, but ealier it was Milanov and Di
Stefano in Gioconda. I saw Zinka as Gioconda about 7 or 8 times, and I will
never forget it, and don't want to ever forget it. With Zinka as Gioconda,
Tucker or Corelli as Enzo, Merrill or MacNeil or Warren as Barnaba, Siepi or
Tozzi as Alvise, who wouldn't get spoiled?

I find that my Itunes library consists mostly of the great singers I grew up
hearing, along with some even older names such as Gigli. I can never ever
get enough Gigli. Same with Bjoerling. Who has matched these voices? Nobody,
that's who.

As I said, I do still go to the Met about 30 times a year, or even a bit
more. If I like a singer, I will see many performances of the same opera. I
happen to be a big fan of Sondra Radvanovsky, and found myself in the
audience for 6 Trovatore performances this season. I felt it was worth it
because she was so very wonderful, but the downside was that I had to sit
through a lot of Manrico performances by a tenor who is simply too light of
voice for the role. Where have you gone, Franco Corelli?

I would see virtually every Millo performance from 1985 on, and one season
sat through 8 Don Carlo performances because she sang Elisabetta so
wonderfully well. Same for Aida, Ballo, and many more with Aprile.

But, in general, great voices are not very common today. I sometimes wonder
what an audience would do if they heard a Corelli in his prime today. I
think they would, or should, cheer for three hours after the performance,
because it will be like something they have never heard before, and will
never hear again.

Of course, I am talking about opera lovers under 50, which is the large
majority of today's audiences. (BTW, Jolson just finished, and not it's Don
Carlo scenes with Tucker, Bastianini, Steber!)

I travel often to hear singers that I like. I started doing this in the late
60's, and still do on occassion. I have great memories of seeing great
singers at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, and so many more. Also,
in this country I have often gone to San Francisco, especially in the mid to
late 70's, when the golden voice of Jose Carreras was caressing the ears of
3000 people at a time.

I was lucky enough to know many of the great singers that I adored, but
certainly not all of them. And I don't adore them because I knew them. I
knew them because I adored them.

Call me any names that you may wish, but my memories of past performances
and singers of the past are priceless and will always remain so. I can still
hear and feel what every voice from the far away sounded like when it hit my
ear, and may I say that as great as recordings are, no great voice,
especially a big, great voice, was ever done justice on a recording.

Enough ranting from me. It's late. Good night.


On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 11:52 PM, A.C. Douglas <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> After hearing the rousing audience reception of _Die Walküre_ tonight, I'm
> forced to the sad conclusion that the Met's audience has got to be among
> the
> most undiscerning opera audiences in the world.
> Has it always been thus?
> My memory is not what it used to be, but I don't think so.
> ---
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