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Subject: Re: Nell Rankin's Amneris - and a Milanov Question
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 11 Oct 2017 20:50:36 -0700
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OK, so here is my take.  By 1955 - Milanov was definitely passing her
prime.  By 1958 I believe she gave up the role of Aida entirely.  It was a
30 year run for her, most unusual in this role.  A similar statistic for
Leontyne Price whose voice was always very facile on top and of course it
was a lighter instrument then Milanov wielded.  That note always scared
heavier voices and few didn't encounter difficulties with it.  I don't
think it was the high C per se but rather as it is written and how it comes
and is approached in the score.  Milanov earlier in her career has an easy
and brilliant high C but the note in the O patria mia in performance always
presented a problem.  I would say that in the last 100 years or so, only
Price and Rethberg, and may a handful of others could carry this trick off
without problems.

Finally, after 30 + years of career (remember she began in 1927 in the
heaviest of roles) the voice was becoming weighty and loosing its ease on
top and the sound had hardened.  The Aida no doubt would have been better
overall if recorded a few years before.  1953 seems to be the sweet spot
where they voice still retained much of the ease of her best years.  Many
years ago I met a man from Argentina who had heard Milanov as Turandot and
he assured me she had no difficulty flinging out the high B's and C's and
no shortage of power.  So we know she had the notes, they just became more
difficult as the years went on.

Donald

On Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 4:19 PM, 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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