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Subject: Re: Luisa Miller recordings
From: Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:01:47 -0400

text/plain (39 lines)

You're mischaracterizing the High Fidelity review to some extent--the reviewer (it was Osborne) is nowhere near as harsh as you suggest. He says the choice of Moffo is only partly justified by the results; that she fails to dominate the ensembles to the extent necessary for the role to succeed. He says "Ponselle must have been just right for the part vocally, and certainly the Callas of a decade ago or the Sutherland of today would come very close to it. Moffo sings prettily and neatly, and with some warmth and dramatic conviction too. But she simply hasn't the wherewithal to make an impression in the ensembles, or to take over the proceedings at all the required points--the voice is too small, too limited in color. And accuracy compels the observation that her top voice does not seem in very healthy state here; the tone is often spread and rather frayed, and one is conscious of a carefulness in the singing that robs it of some needed fire and spontaneity. She is not unattractive or incapable--she is just not quite enough." 

Critics are of course entitled to their own opinions, but I think part of the problem was the relative unfamiliarity of the work--when the Moffo recording was released there was only one other available, and the work was rarely staged (in the US it hadn't been performed in decades). His evaluation of the opera itself is not overly positive either, faulting it on both melodic inspiration and "form" writing. I don't know if Osborne just didn't care for Moffo in general, but the review has the flavor of someone who is not a fan. 

For those interested, High Fidelity back issues--at least most of them--are available in PDF form at 

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Les Mitnick
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2017 7:03 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Luisa Miller recordings

Hi, Everybody:
    It amazes me how critical opinion changes, and how many recordings or individual performances, which were initially (at the time of their release) lambasted to the dirt, are now recognized as being one of the best of their breed. 
    I happened to find some very old issues of High Fidelity magazine (which has been out of print for decades) on shelves in the basement of my late uncle's house, and I went through quite a few of them (until the dust became unbearable and I had to stop).  There was a "new" review of the Moffo/Bergonzi/MacNeil recording of "Louisa Miller" on RCA (vinyl, of course).  I don't remember who the critic was (could it have been Conrad Osborne?).  At any rate, Moffo's performance was savaged in pieces.  The reviewer stated that Moffo was singing a role that required a Callas, and that she was stretching her voice out of bounds and producing ugly notes from start to finish. He said that her singing was stressed, unpleasant, and that she should never have been engaged for the recording.   He offered Leontyne Price as the only possible alternative for this role.  Bergonzi received positive reviews, but MacNeill's singing was rated as "as bad as Moffo's".  Yet NOW the recording is felt
  by many to be the best of the bunch.  I never heard the recording (though I intend to), and lived without the opera until the Caballe/Pavarotti/Milnes recording came out a decade later.  I admired their singing, but had a very difficult picturing either Caballe or Pavarotti appearing in these roles onstage.  But that's beside the point.
    I think that sometimes WE ourselves drastically change our opinions of recorded operatic performances.  I spent my childhood and early teenage years listening to the Toscanini Traviata.  What did I know then?  Very little.  Then, of course, I acquired the versions of Tebaldi, Moffo, Scotto, Sutherland, Cortrubas, and of course Callas. All are vastly different from Toscanini's (though some are incredibly slow and plodding by comparison), and it took me a long time to get used to these more recent recordings.  I also found some of the live performances that I saw in my adult years (some good ones, and a couple of very bad ones) to be inferior to what I heard on the recordings.
    Now, after close to forty years, I'm back to Toscanini's 1946 recording (on a great newly imported pressing from Pristine) and I find that I am astounded at what he makes of "Traviata".  The recording is surely controversial (as it always has been), but it does she one thing:  Our OWN tastes change, our senses change, and sometimes we reverse our opinions to the virtual opposite upon a revisit.
    So ----------- as they say, "Who's on first base?" 
> On July 22, 2017 at 3:52 PM R PRADA <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I listened to a few recordings. A colleague lent me the Moffo, Bergonzi, macNeill   recording and I loved it. Moffo was absolutely wonderful and Bergonzi was as usual as well . MacNeill I remember as being a. It rough at times but over all, very good.
> It is a matter of opinion but Moffo captivated me.
> RP

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