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Subject: Nell Rankin's Amneris - and a Milanov Question
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Wed, 11 Oct 2017 14:40:16 -0400

text/plain (43 lines)

I have been listening to a Met broadcast of "Aida," March 8, 1952, with Milanov, Del 
Monaco, Rankin, and Warren.  The big surprise for me was Nell Rankin's Amneris, which is 
really excellent.  Rankin was one of the singers I heard often when I was young, as she 
sang a great deal with the San Antonio opera.  I hear her as Amneris, Azucena, Marina and 
Brangaene.  I never liked her that much.  Even at a young age, I thought her voice was one 
of those with a quavery vibrato that obscured the actual pitch she was singing (something 
that has always bugged me in any singer).  Also, I just didn't like the way she looked and 
moved on stage.  Those young impressions have remained with me and I have never sought 
out Rankin's broadcast recordings to see if I needed to re-assess.  (My early opinion was not 
improved by seeing Rankin as Gutrune in 1975 - an odd bit of casting, I thought.) 

Well, her 1952 Amneris is a really fine piece of work - a beautiful clear voice with a good top 
(with no quavery vibrato!), good characterization and musicianship.  Her voice doesn't really 
have the heft needed for the latter part of the Judgment Scene but she is close enough to 
get the job done impressively.

Milanov sings gloriously as Aida, far and away the best broadcast performance of her in this 
role that I have heard.  The sound is drop-dead gorgeous, phrases are floated, and she nails 
the high C in "O patria mia" without screaming it, although it is forte and she doesn't linger 
on the note.  Incidentally, for those who heard Milanov live as Aida, I have a question: did 
she ever sing the high C with a floated pianissimo like she does on her 1953 recital 
recording?  In every broadcast performance I have heard (even the early ones in the 40s), 
she approaches the note hastily at forte, sometimes with a screamy quality, and does not 
linger or float and the effect is often rather graceless.  Was that gorgeous rendition on disc 
for the studio only or could she do it live?  

Del Monaco is stentorian - exciting, but hardly subtle or graceful, all warrior and no lover.  
Warren sounds like he is phoning his performance in.  Cleva is competent but a bit dull.


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