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Subject: Fwd: Fanfare on all 3 vols.
From: Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 7 Dec 2018 09:12:00 -0500

text/plain (139 lines)

Hello everybody -

Posting on behalf of Stefan Zucker.


Vols. 2 & 3.
By Stefan Zucker. Bel Canto Society, 2018. 351, 358 pp., respectively, 144
&139 illus., hardbound. Each $34.95 Sale: $27.95 each --- $75.00 for all
three volumes

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing --- 3 Volumes

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200
Years, vol. 1 by Stefan Zucker, 6" X 9" X 384 pp., with 200 lithographs and
photographs, beautifully reproduced.

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200
Years,  vol. 2 by Stefan Zucker, 6" X 9" X 352 pp., with 144 lithographs
and photographs, beautifully reproduced.

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200
Years,  vol. 3 by Stefan Zucker, 6" X 9" X 358 pp., including 139
photographs, beautifully reproduced.

In Fanfare 38:5 I began my review of Stefan Zucker's vastly entertaining
first volume on Franco Corelli by saying, "Turn to this book if you want to
hear operatic singing spoken of with heartfelt emotion and lifelong
understanding." That recommendation holds good for Vols. 2 and 3 as well,
and the entertainment value proceeds apace. But a question naturally
arises. Is even a great tenor like Corelli worthy of three-volume
treatment? I'd say yes, resoundingly, because Zucker's broader topic is
tenordom from its roots in the 18th and 19th centuries. He maintains, as
other vocal experts do, that a major turning point was the popularization
of a high C sung from the chest, for which credit goes to the French tenor
Gilbert-Louis Duprez---Zucker considers him "the most influential singer
As the subtitle of all three volumes indicates, the scope of these books
extends to 54 tenors, making Corelli a central focus while surveying a wide
landscape. We get a wealth of information about how the mechanics of
singing, and the teaching of singers, actually works. This is a hotly
contested realm, and Zucker enters with bold opinions about technical
matters that the lay reader (so to speak) is likely to find new and
intriguing, such as "placing in the mask" and "the lowered larynx." Without
absorbing such fine-grained technicalities, a reader won't be able to grasp
topics such as "tenors who covered" and "tenors who didn't cover."
Fanfare's readership, being record collectors, will be particularly
intrigued by Zucker's opinions about the recordings and videos of every
current tenor of note; these appear in Vol. 3. He has decided views on the
strengths and weaknesses of Jonas Kaufmann, Vittorio Grigolo, Juan Diego
Flórez, et al. to whom he applies rigorous standards of vocal production as
well as his own personal preferences. A taste in voices is a very personal
matter for opera lovers, and a devotee of Flórez, is likely to nod in
agreement when Kaufmann is criticized, and vice versa. Arguing silently
with someone else's opinions is endemic to music criticism, and Zucker
offers ample scope for entering the fray.
Technical matters aside, opera is a gossipaceous arena, and these books are
rich in anecdotes. Have you heard the one about Corelli and Boris Christoff
fighting a duel with swords on the stage of the Rome Opera? The cause was
that Corelli had taken Loretta Di Lelio, who subsequently became his wife,
away from Christoff. The two combatants were both wounded. Do you crave
inside knowledge about Corelli repeatedly sending his wife to Italy so that
he could keep his mistresses away from her eagle eye, or how far he and
Mario Del Monaco went to jealously undermine each other's career? No one
who loves opera is immune from curiosity about its scandals, rivalries, and
intrigues. Zucker satisfies this curiosity in abundance.
Perhaps even more fascinating---and aimed higher---are the interviews with
Corelli and other tenors, exposing their private opinions about a host of
operatic subjects, including famous historical incidents. Corelli was
intelligent and thoughtful, and being, for many, the prince among Italian
tenors in his generation, he's a credible witness to how opera looks from a
conqueror's vantage point.
For example, regarding the starry recording of Gounod's Faust that Decca
made with him, Joan Sutherland, and Nicolai Ghiaurov: "Ghiaurov screamed
and was only good in the laugh [of Méphistophélès], Sutherland hooted. I
was the only one who truly sang, with a free voice and an expressive top. I
threw away some recitatives, though, because I didn't know them well
enough." Each reader will have to sort out ego, expertise, professional
rivalry, and sharp-eyed criticism, yet all are intriguing elements in the
serious-ridiculous-inspiring art of opera.
I can't resist quoting a lengthy passage from a Corelli interview in Vol. 2
that centers on "the Rome walkout," a notorious incident in the career of
Maria Callas at which Corelli was present. On January 2, 1958 Callas was
starring in a gala performance of Norma at the Rome Opera, with the
president of Italy and most of Rome's social elite in attendance. When she
walked out after the first act, a scandal ensued. Corelli was singing
Pollione and he recounts the affair at first hand.
Corelli: Callas was a little sick, and that didn't permit her to sing at
her best. Some in the audience heckled her. When she came offstage after
Act I, she was completely calm, but then she began to stew and announced
she was canceling. The management went to her, to push her to continue the
performance. She became a lioness and began to scream. She threw some vases
and a chair. Little by little she lost her voice. When she left the
theater, however, she looked elegant, as if nothing had happened.
Zucker: Are you suggesting that she could have continued the performance
had she not started to scream?
Corelli: Absolutely. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an
excellent technique. As late as 1958 she was always able to sing. She could
have continued.
Zucker is himself a tenor and hosted Opera Fanatic on WKCR-FM in New York
for many years. Whether he is breaking down voice teaching into eight
categories, interviewing illustrious tenors like Alfredo Kraus and Carlo
Bergonzi (in Vol. 3), skewering three botched biographies of Corelli, or
recounting, after interviews with over 100 singers how most handle the
passaggio (the tricky break between the chest and head voice), Zucker has
created three luscious page-turners.
According to him, today's tenors are restricted to one or two modes of
vocal production---the art of "chiaroscuro," as Zucker calls it, died with
Beniamino Gigli. But one could as easily mourn the era when opera singing
was a blood sport and tenors bought into their stage image as romantic
   Corelli unblushingly declares, "People assume that in my old age I am
hearing Verdi and Puccini in my mind's ear. No! The music I am hearing and
that keeps me going is the sound of Teresa Zylis-Gara having orgasms."
As in Vol. 1, these two later volumes are lavishly illustrated with
lithographs and photos, totaling over 483 for the whole series. The paper
is heavy and enameled. Having devoted years to this project and laying out
tens of thousands of dollars to publish and illustrate the books, in the
forewords Zucker asks for donations to Bel Canto Society. Considering the
treasure trove contained between the covers of all three volumes, it should
be any reader's pleasure to comply.
---Huntley Dent

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