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Subject: Tosca vs Ernani. 2018 vs 1965
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 1 Jan 2018 12:05:51 -0700
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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!

Donald

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