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Subject: Sirius Met 1964 'Don Carlo'
From: David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 5 Sep 2017 15:57:56 -0400

text/plain (60 lines)

I listened to a 1964 'Don Carlo' yesterday with Corelli and Rysanek, and it
was a salutary chastening for someone like myself who is apt to go on about
'the good old days'.  I must have listened to the original broadcast as a
young teenager and thought it tremendous.  What a difference fifty years makes.

Rarely have I heard such incompetent conducting as that achieved by Kurt
Adler.  Everything that could conceivably go wrong did -- lack of ensemble,
rhythmic unsteadiness, quacking brass players.  Terrible, and the score cut
to bits, one excision in the garden trio almost funny in that it could not
have been more than half a minute of music.

There was Corelli, in extraordinarily great voice, but a complete law unto
himself.  Entrances that were either early or late, Adler unsure how long he
would hold any given high note, a missed cue in the auto-da-fe scene that
produced a momentary halt in the performance.  The frantic prompter finally
gave up.

And Rysanek.  There must be many threads here about her Italian roles.  This
was apparently the last Italian performance she gave at the Met, and it was
not hard to see why.  People always comment on her wavering intonation,
which was certainly in evidence -- embarrassingly so in the big aria at 'il
riposo profondo' when she was a good half tone lower than the orchestra when
it entered.  But it was the quality of tone she produced in the middle that
I found most strange, a kind of hollow fog horn sound that at times gave the
impression of a male singer.  I think she sounded so peculiar that she
rather unnerved Corelli in the first duet.  And four years earlier she had
produced audience hysteria with her famous Senta.  You would never guess
from this performance that she was to sing in the house for another
thirty-two years as one of its most beloved stars.  I think she must have
done some restudying before her triumph in 'Frau'.  Her middle voice
obviously was never her glory, but for the rest of her career I don't recall
it ever sounding as weird as in this Elisabetta.  (If I am calculating
correctly her whole career lasted no less than forty-seven years.)

The singer who surprised me the most was Tozzi, who I always think of as
very good at everything he did, master of the legato line.  But he was
overwhelmed vocally by Phillip, and compensated by hammy distortions of the
music.  He could not, however, disguise the fact that he did not really have
a low F.

Uhde was reputed to have made a tremendous impression as the Inquisitor, but
the sound was very light and the lower notes out of tune.

In any event, I guess I should start appreciating more the exponentially
higher musical standards we expect in opera today.

David Kubiak     

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