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Subject: Re: Dal Monte as Butterfly
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 30 Dec 2016 16:55:04 +0000
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Max: 
I see your point. I think the closest you could come would be Leontyne Price, who managed to perform Aida pretty often for about a quarter of a century. True, her mid to late career performances were not flawless, but in her earliest years (1958-1968), it was she who became most associated with the role. As she got older, the fogginess in her low voice became more pronounced but she was one of those rare and lucky sopranos whose top somehow remained unchanged. Tebaldi, in her very earliest years, had no intention of ever singing it, but Toscanini told her that, with certain precautions, she'd be able to. And so she did, and she sang it beautifully, but not really frequently. 
She sang her first Aida in 1950 in San Francisco, and then put the role "on the shelf" after her Paris or Vienna performances in 1959. Her top register was contracting and she developed some really bad pitch problems (the final A at the end of "O Patria Mia" on the Von Karajan recording is very, very bad --------- so bad that the orchestra sounds temporarily out of tune when they begin the final reprise). Tebaldi was smart. She knew her voice had placed the role out of bounds and she simply moved on to other operas). Callas sang Aida a lot in her early years (her voice was like a sledge hammer in the opera) and she never sang it after she lost all the weight. Her 1955 EMI recording is dramatically insightful, but she's fooling no one. That all-important top C at the climax of "O Patria Mia" could knock your front molars out!). Milanov had many moments of great beauty in the beautiful legato passages, but in the turbulent pages sounded like she was screaming for her life. 
I find it interesting that Aida is listed as one of Tebaldi's greatest roles. It really wasn't. Her total Met performances of Aida amounted to three (during her debut season, two in Chicago in 1955, perhaps some isolated ones in Europe after 1955, but by 1959, her time in the role simply ran out. She performed Aida FAR less than she did her more celebrated roles (Mimi, Desdemona, Adriana, Tosca, Chenier, Violetta, etc.). 
Aida is a tremendously difficult role, and it amazes me that so many still sing it. A lot of sopranos have tried it, and it's usually the opera they end up giving up first. That "O Patria Mia" high C is enough to put the fear of God into ANY of them. Worst of all, there's no way to avoid that note. 
Next to Price, I'd probably place Caballe in the early 1970s and around the time she made her complete recording. 
Only my own personal opinions. 
Les 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Maxwell Paley" <[log in to unmask]> 
To: "OPERA-L" <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2016 10:50:47 PM 
Subject: Re: Dal Monte as Butterfly 

The funny thing is, today I’d have an easier time coming up with candidates for who is a great Brünnhilde or Elektra than I would for who is a great Butterfly. Worse, I’d be absolutely stumped if asked to name a great Aida. 

Max Paley 


> On Dec 29, 2016, at 6:53 PM, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
> 
> I think it is important, when assessing Toti dal Monte's Butterfly, to remember that in Italy in 
> the 30s and 40s, Dal Monte was considered by many to be THE supreme Butterfly of her time. 
> 
> MDW 
> 

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