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Subject: Re: Toscaitis?
From: Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:01:36 -0400

text/plain (84 lines)

On Fri, 16 Jun 2017 09:09:51 -0700, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Opalais has been seemingly having vocal problems.  The voice has hardened
>and thinned out.  I would guess Gelb decided to pay her off and pull her
>not wanting to jeopardize the new Tosca.  He has already lost Kaufmann
>although the rising star of Grigolo will certainly fill the bill -
>personally I prefer a more sunny Italian sound as Cavaradossi.  Too bad
>their isn't a real, Tebaldi/Stella like Italian spinto around.  There are a
>few good ones but no one remotely in that category.  My first Tosca's were
>Tebaldi, Kirsten, Crespin and Rysanek.  I have a high bar.  All were
>glorious in their different ways.


[G.R.]  I did see Kirsten's Tosca.  It had striking dramatic authority and
fine musical discipline throughout.  Since I had admittedly pegged her up to
then as a lyric (I never saw her Minnie, although I heard it over the air),
the authority of her Tosca took me entirely by surprise.  I was initially
disappointed to be seeing Kirsten that day, because Arroyo had first been
scheduled and then withdrew (I got to see Arroyo that same year as a truly
resplendent Aida, which was rich compensation for the Tosca
disappointment!).  At the same time, I must register my admiration for
Kirsten's resourcefulness that evening.

In addition, while I have heard a number of the extant Tebaldi Toscas, I
only saw Tebaldi (in the Sixties) in Chenier and Lecouvreur.  In the house,
it was still a plush caressing sound with a rich legato.  True, the top was
not what it had been, but the instrument as a whole was still a gorgeous and
inviting sound.  I found hers much more the kind of voice I imagine as
Tosca, in my mind's ear when reading the score, than Kirsten's, fine as
Kirsten was.

I only saw Crespin at the end of her career as a mezzo.  It was easily the
hugest sound I've ever heard from a woman's throat, if no longer with that
bewitching loveliness it had had as a soprano, and which we can hear on a
number of treasurable recordings.  I enjoy the Sixties b'cast of the Crespin
Tosca (opposite Gianni Raimondi, I believe?) and am sorry I never saw her
during that time.

Rysanek was and remains one of my most cherished memories in the opera
house.  I freely admit she holds a very special place for me, above and
beyond these other three.  I saw her in Rosenkavalier, Parsifal, Katya,
Jenufa, Dama -- I'm sure one or two others that escape me.  She combined
lustrous beauty of tone with the greatest acting skills.  How often do we
encounter that?  But I never saw her Tosca.  There were once some extracts
from it on YouTube.

All that said, I have to say flat out that I honestly feel there is at least
one Tosca today who compares honorably with these other four: Sondra
Radvanovsky, whom I've now seen and loved in the part.  Here is a plush
"wrap-around" sound in the house very much in the tradition, a recent
mastery of the pianissimo that astonishes me in the light of its not having
been much of a feature earlier in her career, a strong presence on stage, a
soaring top, and an intensity, an energy, that does not seem to hamper a
natural easy surge in her musical phrasing.  I even know at least two or
three older aficionados who have seen much more than I have, going back to
the 1940s(!), who view Radvanovsky's handling of all the key solo moments
("Non la sospiri", "Ed io venivo", "Vissi d'arte", "E l'ultimo" [with its
high C], etc.) as equaling the best they have ever heard in this role.  As a
grateful listener myself to various landmarks in the discography, like the
Melis set, the Caniglia, the Frazzoni, the Callas/De Sabata, the "live"
Milanov/Corelli, the Olivero video, a number of Tebaldi tapes, the
Crespin/Raimondi air check, and so on, I can only agree with those
old-timers who feel that Radvanovsky's is an accomplishment easily on a
level with most of these others.


Geoffrey Riggs

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