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Subject: Re: The new DG recording of La Clemenza Di Tito and the lost art of recitative
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 8 Jul 2018 17:06:27 -0500
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Must agree with you on Schmann-Heink's very early rendition of "Parto, parto".  It's absolutely perfect.  What a singer SHE must have been!  I also agree with you about the first "Clemenza" recording, which appeared on London/Decca in the late 1960's.  Teresa Berganza's rendition of it is as close to Schumann-Heink's.  If I'm not mistaken, Lucia Popp is also on this recording, which I own on CD.
Still, I hope people check out the Schumann-Heink You Tube, for which you kindly supplied the link.
It's a revelation and the sound is amazingly good for the period.
> On July 8, 2018 at 1:05 PM James Camner <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> 
> Yesterday, I downloaded the new DG recording of La Clemenza di Tito which
> popped up in the "new selections" list from iTunes.
> 
> I'm not going to review in detail it except to say that we were both
> disappointed with it.
> 
> Briefly: the tempos by the conductor Yannick Nezet Seguin were, IMHO,
> erratic, too often manic and fast. I don't think he was much help to the
> singers, none of whom shone at their best, IMHO. I am sorry, but I don't
> think Nezet-Seguin's conducting here bodes well for Mozart at the
> Metropolitan Opera in the future.
> 
> Aside from Rolando Villazon, who sounded strained to me, the big name among
> the singers on the DG recording is Joyce DiDonato who speeds through the
> coloratura passages in the grand aria Parto, Parto with impressive ease,
> but she brings no characterization or expression to it, it's all a race to
> the finish line. It also struck me how much she really is a "mezzo" not
> having either an easy top or bottom to her voice, at least not as I heard
> it in this recording. DiDonato is a remarkable singer of course, and
> perhaps in collaboration with more seasoned Mozart conducting hands, she
> could have reached higher.
> 
> The bar on records for Parto Parto was set by Ernestine Schumann Heink:
> 
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G98hlUfue54
> 
> No one has matched the peerless contralto on records but if memory serves
> me correctly, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson came close when she sang it at the
> New York City Opera in March of 2000. On records Teresa Berganza is very
> good (there are multiple recordings of her doing it on Youtube). After all
> these years, I believe the first recording dating from 1967 of La Clemenza
> di Tito by Istvan Keresz (a brilliant conductor who died tragically young)
> remains the best.
> 
> One thing that certainly hasn't improved in time is the singing of
> recitative which is inevitably a bore, but it shouldn't be that way;
> recitative should be the opportunity for singers to express the drama and
> to show off their improvisational skills (on their own terms and not
> dictated by an anachronistic  conductor). But I doubt I will ever hear a
> modern performance of a baroque or classical opera that does anything like
> that.
> 
> I'm astounded that singers allow themselves to be bullied and pushed by
> conductors (who may or may not know anything about singing) into singing
> this way or that. We were at a showing of Lubitsch's "So This is Paris" at
> UCLA and there was a discussion about it, and how Lubitsch would act out
> lines for the actors who tolerated it, but who basically (and this is still
> true of actors today) resent it and rarely put up with it. But opera
> singers, unlike actors or pop singers, are slaves in bondage. And that more
> than anything explains the self-defeating paradox of so called HIP.
> 
> James Camner
> 
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