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Subject: Re: Nell Rankin's Amneris - and a Milanov Question
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 11 Oct 2017 18:37:44 -0700
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Those of you who heard and saw Milanov live can hear these recordings differently from those of us who didn’t.

Without that benefit, what I hear on that studio “Aida” (after some superb singing from Bjoerling and Barbieri):

Aida’s entrance through “Ritorna vincitor”: squally, unpleasant of uncertain pitch

“Numi pieta”: stunning, ravishing “best in the world” singing

Act 2: alternating mix of above

“O patria mia”: absolutely gorgeous, amazingly beautiful, expansive, controlled singing

Aida-Amonasro: squawk, squawk

“La, tra le foreste vergine”: stunning beautiful legato

Agitated end of duet with Radames: Huff and puff

Tomb Scene: Magnificent singing

So, for overall listening to Verdi’s “Aida” vs. a particular singer, I much prefer a firmer, better pitched sound like Tebaldi (high C issues notwithstanding) or Price or Harteros (I like hearing Aida sung with the clean intonation of a good Strauss singer).

Also, shallow as it may sound, for listening to the opera and Verdi’s score, I want really good stereo sound and top orchestral playing. Solti gets surprisingly good playing out of the Rome Opera group. Karajan gets mesmerizing, hypnotic sounds out of the Vienna Philharmonic on both his recordings. Some have complained about the engineering on the 1959 Decca but on my system it remains an audiophile spectacular and I have no trouble hearing the singers.

But Milanov’s high points are pretty splendid.

Max Paley


Sent from my iPhone

> On Oct 11, 2017, at 16:19, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Max:
> 
>      I've often thought the same thing about Milanov.  I own this particular broadcast and I agree with you. Nell Rankin also was a fine Laura (again with Milanov) in Gioconda.  Rankin had a very good career ----not on the level of Stignani, Barbieri, Simionato, Cossotto, or Zajick, but a good career nonetheless.  I rather like her Amneris as well.  I would put her in the category of "extremely valuable house mezzo soprano".
> 
>     As far as Zinka Milanov's "O Patria Mia" top C, you are totally correct.  Her RCA recital of the early 1950s and her complete recording of 1955 both contain superb piano high Cs at the conclusion of "O Patria Mia".  But we must remember that she was in a studio, with no audience pressure, and was undoubtedly given ample opportunity to produce that very difficult note.  She could have done multiple "takes" and then choose which one she wanted spliced into the final master.   Overall, she's pretty great on this recording and I consider her Tomb Scene with Bjoerling one of the greatest pieces of duet singing I've ever experienced ---------- and still the most vocally opulent Tomb Scene I've ever heard.
> 
>    I first encountered this recording when I was seventeen.  The recording had already been out for six years, and was placed very highly in critical esteem.  I bought it, loved it, and I still consider it to be my recorded Aida of choice.  The "Trovatore" quartet of Milanov/Bjoerling/Barbieri/Warren is equally auspicious in this Aida.
> 
> ]     
> 
>> On October 11, 2017 at 1:40 PM "Max D. Winter" wrote:
>> 
>> 
>>    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.
>> 
>>    MDW
>> 
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