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Subject: Re: Pinkerton
From: Russ Geschke <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Russ Geschke <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 6 Mar 2018 13:43:39 -0600
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There is a c. 1929 recording of the final "Tu tu piccol iddio" by the 
Argentinian spinto Hina Spani and the LaScala orchestra -- excellently 
recorded for its time (and accessible on CDs) -- that when I first heard it 
immediately called to mind the Immolation Scene and remains for me The 
Version of this music.  For "sheer sound, power and emotion" I've never 
heard its equal.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Maxwell Paley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2018 1:17 PM
Subject: Re: Pinkerton


I think timbre is a key element for Butterfly.

As Donald says, much of it lies in the lower and middle voice and the 
orchestra is huge. A lyric soprano with a great deal of “bite” (persistent 
forward resonance) in her sound can pull this off (Scotto, Kirsten, 
Albanese). I think it would have been a problem for Freni in a staged 
performance environment; her voice bloomed out beautifully on top but it was 
softer textured in the middle voice. But I love Freni on record.

I like a full weight sound in the role. I have the two Tebaldi recordings 
and I actually prefer the later stereo recording. The sound is still 
terrific and although she sounds too big, too powerful, too imposing, I 
think she’s wonderful. Her cackle after she says she’s fifteen makes it 
sound like an absurd lie and her response to the question about her father 
(“morto”) makes it sound like she’s talking about Garibaldi but I don’t 
care. I think it’s note for note the most sumptuous sounding Butterfly I’ve 
ever heard and, with Bergonzi’s beautiful tenor and Serafin’s slow tempi, 
the Act 1 love duet is remarkably expansive and spacious. Tebaldi is for me 
the “reference” of what I want to hear in Puccini’s mini-Immolation Scene at 
the end, with its demands for sheer sound, power and emotion.

The Decca engineers didn’t shy away from capturing the full brightness and 
dynamics of her voice, meaning that even 60 years later this is still a 
demanding recording for playback. It takes very good audio gear, lest she 
sound shrill and overpowering. I still incline to listen to this in analog 
form: either on open reel tape or the early US stereo release, which spread 
it over 4 LPs.

Another full lyric, approaching lyrico-spinto, whom I liked in the role was 
Sena Jurinac.

Patricia Racette had several good years with it after she took it back on in 
(I think) 2005, before she started having flatting problems in her upper 
voice. I liked Sylvie Valayre in the role, who also rose to the occasion 
with the final scene. More recently, I thought Lianna Haroutounian did some 
beautiful things, but as is becoming more frequent, I was too aware of her 
consciously saving herself for the big moments.

Sent from my iPad

> On Mar 6, 2018, at 9:16 AM, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Bob is probably right.  Butterfly looses some credibility with a 
> Brunnhilde
> as Cio-Cio-San, but its a hard sing, constant pounding in the middle voice
> with those rises above over a huge orchestra.  For me, a true lyric, just
> doesn't have the chops - may in a small theatre with a reduced orchestra?
> De Los Angeles was of course much more lyric then Tebaldi but it was 
> hardly
> a small voice.
>
> Sorry, I know this is a bit late.  I wrote it days ago and never hit the
> send button.
>
>> On Sun, Mar 4, 2018 at 4:51 PM, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>> Tom
>>
>> I agree with you completely about Tebaldi's rather heroic sound in two
>> roles that I have much more enjoyed in the hands of lighter voiced
>> singers like Albanese and Scotto.
>>
>> But -
>>
>> the opera's history tells a very different story, as do Puccini's own
>> choices, at times. After the failure of Milan's World Premiere, he
>> chose Salomea Kruscelnicka (spelled a bazillion different ways)
>> for the second incarnation at Brescia, she who was just about
>> the most famous Brunnhilde of her generation. Emmy Destinn,
>> another dramatic soprano, had huge success in  the role at the
>> Met and elsewhere. And so it has gone for over a century, lyrics
>> and spintos, even dramatics, alternating in the role, many of each
>> type with great success.
>>
>> What is puzzling is that Puccini clearly saw the role as the province
>> of the light lyric when he chose Rosina Storchio for the World
>> Premiere. He made a 180 degree turn for the Brescia version with
>> Kruscelnicka, though the major musical changes had little to do
>> with his tragic heroine. They mainly involved the chorus, the many
>> comprimarios (English) and Pinkerton, for whom "Addio, fiorito
>> asil" was added.
>>
>> All that said, I prefer a lighter sound, one that conveys the youth
>> and vulnerability of the "protagonista".
>>
>> Bob
>>
>>> On Sun, Mar 4, 2018 at 17:59 tom ponti <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>
>>> Just a personal opinion but as beautiful as Tebaldi sounds on her
>>> Butterfly and Boheme recordings, I find her voice just a bit too large 
>>> or
>>> heavy for these roles, who are supposed to be slight and fragile young
>>> women.  Victora's voice is every bit as beautiful as Renata's but 
>>> lighter
>>> and younger sounding. Freni, though she never sang the complete role on
>>> stage, IMO, has an ideal sounding voice for Butterfly. Price is gorgeous
>> on
>>> her recording with a lighter sounding voice than Tebaldi's. Callas, as I
>>> recall, lightened her voice and manages to sound like a young woman on
>> her
>>> recording. Scotto is lovely, especially for her, on the recording with
>>> Bergonzi as well as being dramatically outstanding. But then, is it
>>> possible to not be moved by any Butterfly with a good sounding voice and
>>> decent acting ability?
>>>
>>>
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: Discussion of opera and related issues <[log in to unmask]
>>>
>>> on behalf of Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Sent: Sunday, March 4, 2018 5:35 PM
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: Re: [OPERA-L] Pinkerton
>>>
>>>    I saw Brandon Jovanovich as Pinkerton.  Obviously he made a
>> tremendous
>>> impression.  He had the voice (which was somewhat more lyrical than it 
>>> is
>>> now that he sings heavier stuff) and he really looked the part.  This 
>>> was
>>> about eight years ago.
>>>
>>>    Speaking of Butterfly, I decided to listen to my newly remastered CD
>>> version with Tebaldi/Bergonzi under Serafin.  Bergonzi sounds so young
>> and
>>> his singing is ideal.  Tebaldi?  Her Butterfly was as Japanese  as
>> lasagna,
>>> her interpretation very generalized ------- but the SOUND that she made!
>>> For example, the phrases where she tells Pinkerton that she wants to go
>> to
>>> HIS church are voiced with a beauty of sound that I've heard from no
>> other
>>> soprano ever.  Yeah, she flats just a bit at the end of her entrance, 
>>> but
>>> overall her voice sounds like the pitchers of cream that so many critics
>>> talked about.  It was an Italian voice in an Italian opera and for
>> Tebaldi
>>> it was more than enough.  Will we ever hear a Butterfly with a voice 
>>> like
>>> this again?   The only other soprano who comes nearest this is Leontyne
>>> Price (with Tucker).  Of course there are the Callas and Scotto
>>> recordings------- where each are aiming for totally different effects.
>>> Surely all four of these great sopranos belong in the great Butterfly
>>> pantheon.
>>>
>>>    I also think it a shame that RCA never saw fit to give Albanese and
>>> Peerce a complete Butterfly.  The extended excerpts from 1955 are good,
>> but
>>> perhaps should have been recorded a few years earlier.
>>>
>>>> On March 4, 2018 at 1:43 PM Maxwell Paley wrote:
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>    The huge weight of the opera is on the soprano (I’d actually say
>>> it’s on both the soprano and conductor), but a really excellent 
>>> Pinkerton
>>> makes a huge difference. A Pinkerton who is handsome, sexually 
>>> attractive
>>> and who has a melting voice can make us feel a much greater empathy and
>>> understanding for Butterfly. An unpleasant looking or sounding lout of a
>>> tenor reinforces the notion that she’s totally deluded.
>>>>
>>>>    I saw several great famous ones - Carreras, Aragall (both during
>> the
>>> 1974 San Francisco season when it seemed Scotto had a different tenor 
>>> for
>>> each performance), Jovanovich and Aragall with Racette, etc. But one who
>>> really stuck in my memory wasn’t a major celebrity but did something
>>> special with the role. This was a Welsh tenor, Arthur Davies, whom I saw
>> in
>>> London in December of 1992 with Yoko Watanabe as Butterfly.
>>>>
>>>>    If you Google Davies and see close up pictures, you’ll wonder what
>>> the big deal is. From the audience, with makeup on, he looked like he 
>>> was
>>> somewhere in his late 20s and the voice was fresh and clean. In physique
>>> and deportment, he was as handsome and attractive a Pinkerton as I’ve
>> ever
>>> seen and one totally understood Butterfly being completely wrapped up
>> with
>>> him.
>>>>
>>>>    Max Paley
>>>>
>>>>    I was shocked later to find out he was already in his early 50s.
>>>>
>>>>>> On Mar 4, 2018, at 10:14 AM, Jon Goldberg wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>        I think what is undeniably true is that we see the story of
>>> the opera through Butterfly.
>>>>>        That doesn't mean the other characters - any of them - are
>>> less important - but just that
>>>>>        it's her journey that we follow.
>>>>>
>>>>>        Had Puccini wanted us to see this more through Pinkerton's
>>> eyes, we might have had the
>>>>>        wedding scene between him and Kate, for instance, or the
>> scene
>>> where Sharpless tells
>>>>>        him about the child and convinces him to come back to Japan.
>>> But what we have instead
>>>>>        is a much stronger drama where the effect of Pinkerton's
>>> absence in Act II is palpable.
>>>>>
>>>>>        It's also interesting to note that the Belasco play starts
>>> with Act II of the opera plot -
>>>>>        Pinkerton's entire role is reduced to a very short appearance
>>> at the end. Puccini and his
>>>>>        librettists went back to the original John Luther Long short
>>> story for what became Act I.
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>>        On Sun, 4 Mar 2018 15:42:21 +0000, Bob Rideout wrote:
>>>>>>
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