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Subject: Re: Helen Traubel: The loviiest Night of the Year
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 28 Aug 2017 18:09:00 -0500
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The Helen Traubel version of "Casta Diva" came from an early 1950s LP vinyl recording on which she sang Italian Opera Arias.  Other items included "Pace, Pace, Mio Dio", "Ritorna Vincitor", Visi d'Arte, Voi lo Sepete o Mama", and the Willow Song and Ave Maria from "Otello".  I came across a review of this long out-of-print recording and the review was not at all positive.  The critic noted that the Casta Diva was sung a whole step down in the key of E flat, the Desdemona Act IV scena "much too loud", the "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "Forza" aria too placid and dull, etc. Only the "Visi d'Arte" was judged to be "acceptable".
    This artist was obviously ill-suited to Italian opera.
> On August 28, 2017 at 5:54 PM Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> 
> Don,
> 
> Thank you for the Traubel Casta Diva - I would never even have thought to
> look!  Everything you say is right - she must have picked up her Eyetalian
> from the pizza waitress back in St. Louis and why even bother with the
> correct words or any sort of idiomatic delivery.  All of that being said,
> she is vocally magnificent - the voice light and  limpid in the first verse
> then she ever so slightly darkens the color for second iteration.  I was
> hoping she would make it through the light filigree between verses and
> indeed she does so with delicacy and elegance.  We don't get the cabaletta,
> but that is not a surprise...as an old professor of mine once said, "...in
> life we take what we can..."    However appropriate Fiedler might be for
> Sousa, he was not the ideal to coach such a glorious voice through the
> intricacies of Bellini.  A few sessions with the likes of a Serafin might
> have made this a classic "might have been..."
> 
> Bob Rideout do you know the provenance of this recording?  The sound is
> almost too good for a radio transcription, but would a commercial release
> have contained so many verbal mishaps?
> 
> Steve
> 
> On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 1:40 PM, donald kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> > Things keep turning up; I had no ides there was a Traubel "All The
> > Things You Are"; I may have to break down and order the Sepia
> > disc.  "A Perfect Day" can't be missed either.
> >
> > Another lp that hasn't been mentioned was the fabulous Camden
> > compilation, which may be where "Merry Widow Waltz" comes
> > from, but also includes her earliest RCA opera arias, and one of the
> > best "Lost Chords" ever found.
> >
> > To make matters worse, thanks to You tube, I came across a nearly
> > 8 minute Casta Diva sung with perfect intonation, midwestern accented
> > Italian, and zero emotional involvement, but with Fiedler, again, credited
> > as conductor.  I can find no entries for any such thing in the RCA catalog.
> >
> > It ain't over yet!
> >
> > dtmk
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 5:45 PM, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> >
> >> Don,
> >>
> >> Agree with your assessment of Traubel in terms of the "American" pantheon.
> >> My first exposure to her was indelible - Katisha to Groucho's KoKo in a TV
> >> version of "The Mikado."  My long ago memories of this were reconfirmed
> >> when I watched the DVD reissue.  No Dragon Lady was ever more Dragon...
> >>
> >> I highly endorse the Sepia release of her Pop compilation entitled "The
> >> Loveliest Night of the Year" and again commend Bob Kosvosky for bringing
> >> it
> >> to the List's attention.  So many felicities and there is something about
> >> hearing such a sumptuous voice take on a waltz.  Witness the title song,
> >> as
> >> well as "Three o'clock in the Morning,"  "Its a Grand Night for singing,"
> >> " Missouri Waltz,"  "Beautiful Ohio,"  Merry Widow Waltz...."  That being
> >> said, the two I keep going back to are her renditions of "All the things
> >> you are" and "A Perfect Day"
> >>
> >> This release brings a buried treasure to light...if there is more, I can't
> >> wait to hear...
> >>
> >> Steve
> >>
> >> On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 9:01 PM, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >> > Helen Traubel was plain and simple, one of the greatest voices of the
> >> > twentieth century and one of the handful of truly great American
> >> singers.
> >> > She had a rather strange career, mainly because of her nature - she
> >> first
> >> > auditioned for Gatti Casazza in 1926 but turned down an offered contract
> >> > because she felt herself unready.  She probably still felt herself
> >> unready
> >> > when she finally accepted a Met contract to star in Damrosch's Man
> >> Without
> >> > A Country.  Even her forays into Wagner seemed halfhearted.  She sort of
> >> > fell into it because of Flagstad's return to Europe and Marjorie
> >> Lawrence's
> >> > being struck down by polio.  She never received the respect she
> >> deserved.
> >> > And of course, there was the contretemps with Bing.  He had the
> >> notorious
> >> >  feud with Melchior and I don't think he was really interested in
> >> Traubel.
> >> > When Flagstad returned, part of her agreeing to come back was her
> >> respect
> >> > for Traubel and pointedly letting Bing know that she would not push
> >> Traubel
> >> > out.  They shared Ring Cycles and Flagstad did Fidelio and Traubel sang
> >> the
> >> > Marschallin.  Traubel herself was probably not interested in staying any
> >> > longer, she certainly went out of her way to piss Bing off.  I'm sure
> >> she
> >> > realized the top was continuing to disappear and in those days, star
> >> > dramatic soprano's didn't usually become mezzo's or contraltos.  Very
> >> few
> >> > went that route.  They usually retired.  In many ways, she was like
> >> Eileen
> >> > Farrell. Similar voice types, similar personalities.  Both immense
> >> natural
> >> > gifts.
> >> >
> >> > Donald
> >> >
> >> > On Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 5:02 PM, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]
> >> >
> >> > wrote:
> >> >
> >> >> Call me an “easy” mark but Helen Traubel’s voice and manner in these
> >> >> popular songs is Drop Dead Gorgeous – I expected more of a “shot and
> >> beer”
> >> >> girl hiking up her skirts – but she never compromises the integrity and
> >> >> grandeur of her essential gift.  There is the occasional misjudgment –
> >> >> “Poor Butterfly ”  becomes “Mon Coeur s’ouvre a ta voix…”   but even in
> >> >> that case the voice is so opulent and the delivery so generous  you
> >> have
> >> >> no
> >> >> choice but to give in.
> >> >>
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