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Subject: Re: WHEN TO RETIRE
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 30 Nov 2017 10:39:04 -0800
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Kenneth’s post is in line with what I’ve been thinking on this topic.

To me, aside from any emotions or sentiment, the real issue is whether a performer can provide a compelling experience with what they have to offer.

This seems to be a much more difficult thing for the aging opera singer than it is for the aging pop or jazz singer. A jazz singer can have their instrument reduced to a whisp but, if they’ve maintained their rhythmic sense and their ability to tell a story with the words in an engaging way, can still deliver a worthwhile experience. Even when, now in retrospect, the great Mabel Mercer was still “mid career” she made the comment about herself, “I used to have a soprano, but now it’s just a noise.”

One would think that there should be a vehicle that the aging singer could use to communicate their experience, use their life understanding to add meaning to words and provide value beyond the actual increasing frailty of the instrument. The song repertoire could be such a vehicle and, if the singer gets to where they need a microphone, is that such a terrible thing?

I can imagine a singer whose sounds have gotten coarse and less firm could still give a harrowing performance of Schubert’s “Winterreise.” 

It would have to be a singer who has a gift for artistry of interpretation, beyond the actual production of sound.

It just, somehow, doesn’t seem to happen very often that way with opera singers. I don’t know if it’s that they get so “programmed” into the ritual of performing opera that they can’t break out into a different means of expression or if there’s just a basic difference to the operatic beast. You’d even think the art of popular song could be more of a vehicle, but it doesn’t happen so often. Eileen Farrell made a superb series of records for an audiophile label well after she had stopped singing concert and opera repertoire.

Max Paley

> On Nov 30, 2017, at 8:48 AM, Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> John Ardoin told me that he suggested to Callas that she embrace the French
> art song repertoire rather than attempting opera arias that taxed her
> current vocal resources. Her reply was that song recitals weren't her
> thing: "I leave that to Elizabeth [Schwarzkopf]."
> 

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