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Subject: Re: Tosca vs Ernani. 2018 vs 1965
From: David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 1 Jan 2018 16:49:34 -0500

text/plain (118 lines)

I heard the 'Ernani' as well, and two things stood out for me (I'll just
assume Corelli was some king of miracle and not mention him).  First, Elvira
was an absolutely perfect role for Price, even more so than Aida, since it's
not so heavily orchestrated.  She was always best at launching vocal lines
that headed up, and the tessitura of Elvira must be among the highest of any
of the Verdi soprano parts.  And we were still in her pre-scooping and other
distortions period.  it was just really very great singing on all counts.

The other, slightly curious thing, concerned Siepi.  I thought to myself if
I had to say what singer he most resembled it might well be Bing Crosby. 
What has happened in opera to the the concept that singing should be a
natural thing -- you open your mouth and out comes the tone, in Siepi's case
a very beautiful but still utterly natural tone.  So much singing I hear
today is based on strenuous and artificial techniques that first, deprive
the singer of a unique sound (can you really tell one Bill Schuman tenor
from the other?), and second, techniques that do not last and find the
singer in trouble when they should be entering their primes.  

If you want to know why some people are not happy with the state of operatic
singing today, just listen to that wonderful 'Ernani'.   

David Kubiak 


>I decided to post about last night Tosca broadcast.  I haven't read
>anything yet but yesterday afternoon I heard the Sirius broadcast of Ernani
>from 1954 with Price, Corelli, Sereni and Siepi under Thomas Schippers.
>Then I heard the New Years Eve performance of the new production of Tosca
>with Yoncheva, Grigolo and Lucic under Emmanuel Villaume.  Listing to both
>on the same day got me to thinking on the state of singing and where we
>have gone in the past fifty years.
>First of all, let me say I am not one of those who says there is no good
>singing or even great singing going on today.  All you have to do is catch
>performances by Sondra Radvanovsky, Jamie Barton, Anja Harteros, Rene Pape
>or even though he is not my favorite, Jonas Kaufmann to realize there are
>great singers before the publicv today.
>The biggest difference between the Ernani and the Tosca was the immediate
>realization that back in 1965 Ernani was presented with a cast that was
>totally up to the task, big Verdian voices in all of their glory.  No
>member of that cast was in anyway shape or form, short of what is
>required.  The one thing I felt at the end of the Tosca was a Tosca who
>perhaps, and this is hard to judge  having heard her on a broadcast, and
>not live, not reallly vocally equipped for this heavy role and it is a
>heavy role.  Lyric sopranos who do it very often are pushed into overdrive
>and that is where I felt Yoncheva was last night.  The voice has many
>beautiful moments but full out on top, the notes are almost flapping in the
>wind.  I heard an unsteady sound that I had never heard in her before.
>When I first heard her I was  thrilled at this gorgeous new lyric soprano.
>My gut feeling is that Tosca is a but of a stretch, and not a good stretch
>for her.  As for Sig Grigolo, I've liked him in lyric roles.  I had
>problems with his Cavaradossi.  The sound of the voice is wrong.  The core
>of the voice in the middle is too vague without the focus and intensity
>needed to support the top.  Again, he might have been fine in the house, it
>is certainly not a small voice, but for me, the quality of the sound was
>not there.  Let's not even go there with Lucic.  There was nothing vocally
>or in interpretation that impressed me.  I have generally liked him over
>the recent years as the best of a rather undistinguished bunch of baritones
>but I think time has taken its toll.  It is a decent voice but no more than
>that.  I remember when I was a kid, Mario Sereni, the Don Carlo in Ernani,
>was generally thought to be second rung.  The guy who was called in when
>Merrill, Bastianini, Cappuccilli, MacNeil or Milnes were not available.
>Well, if he were active today, he would be the dominant Verdi/Puccini
>baritone, certainly without Hvorostovsky around and his voice was bigger
>then Hvorostovsky's and at least in the big houses, more suited to the rep,
>if without his gorgeous quality and sheer vocal ability.  Price before 1970
>was one of the giants.  Not just in Verdi, she was a superb Butterfly and
>Tosca also.  I have not mentioned Corelli because he was sui generis,
>nobody since has come close.  There is no reason to discuss Siepi because
>the only bass role of consequence in Tosca is the Sacristan and Siepi was
>the last of the great Italian bassos and I would say, along with his near
>contemporary Ghiaurov, the last of the great basso contantes period.
>Although, I think Rene Pape would have held his own in any era.
>I won't say any more because I hate to judge something I have not heard in
>the theatre.  Like Angela Gheorghiu, Yoncheva may be an acceptable Tosca in
>a smaller European sized theatre but at the Met, at least, I was
>underwhelmed from what I heard over the broadcast.  From everyone.  The
>orchestra as always sounded beautiful and it was a well conducted
>performance.  Under the circumstances, with all the cancellations, I guess
>I shouldn't be too critical. The whole premise of this posting was my
>thoughts after having heard earlier in the day the Ernani from fifty years
>ago and then hearing Tosca today with a cast of two younger singers in
>their primes and one veteran who was perhaps past his and how I feel Tosca
>was under cast in a way Ernani was not a half century ago.
>Happy New Year to all!
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