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Subject: Re: LOC and Boris Christoff (was STRIKE!!!)
From: kurt youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:kurt youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 13 Oct 2018 16:19:58 -0500

text/plain (45 lines)

> On Oct 13, 2018, at 3:02 PM, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> From 1957 when he debuted at the Lyric in Don Carlo, he appeared
> in Boris Godunov, again as Philip, Boito's Mefistofele. Guardiano,
> Don Basilio, Prince Igor (both roles), Colline, Zaccaria, and an encore
> of Basilio. I may have left something out. I think he last appeared in
> 1963.

He also sang Don Pizarro, the only role I didn’t find him definitive in. (Hotter was a tough act to follow)!

His Clock Tower scene in Boris left me practically gasping for breath! I’ll never forget that at one point he approached the dining table, which had been set for dinner, and violently yanked the tablecloth off, strewing dishes all across the stage.

His two runs as Philip II were matchless. Too bad he was never paired with the Inquisitor of Giulio Neri (as on the studio recording).

Colline was the ultimate in luxury casting.

I thought his Mefistofele was unbeatable. Another “too bad”: on his studio recording of the opera, the Helen of Troy scene was omitted since EMI didn’t see fit to cough up the money for the extra LP it would have required.

I always found it ironic that Claudia Cassidy, the Chicago Tribune’s feared but overrated and self-indulgent critic, preferred the all-but-voiceless Nicola Rossi-Lemeni over Christoff. He was a fine enough actor (although a bit flamboyant / over-the-top) but he had no low register whatsoever. I’ve remarked before that in his Puritani “Suona la tromba" duet with Bastianini, the baritone had far better low notes. For those who have the Rossi-Lemeni recorded performances of Philip II and Baron Ochs[!] you can hear that his lowest notes aren’t even audible - probably because they were non-existent.

In later days we were blessed with some outstanding performances by Samuel Ramey. Siepi, sad to say, sang only Basilio here and that was late in his career. For some unknown reason I missed it.

Many Opera L folk are Ghiaurov fans. He sang a number of roles here to great acclaim but I simply didn’t care for his voice and he certainly was no match for Christoff dramatically. His final Chicago role was Colline and it was a vocal embarrassment; he was well past his prime. I said at the time that it would have been smarter to have cast him as Benoit / Alcindoro. But Mirella Freni (Mrs. Ghiaurov) sang Mimi and obviously insisted on having him as Colline.


Regarding David Kubiak’s comment that LOC’s casting has been spotty since the 50s, I suggest that they had some fine casts well into the 60s. There were quite a few good excellent casts through the Krainik years as well. Alas, many performances that could otherwise have been considered world class were marred by Bartoletti’s execrable conducting.

Kurt Youngmann

"Of God, the Devil and Darwin, we have really good scientific evidence for the existence of only Darwin." - Niall Shanks

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