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Thread: General Question: Orchestra vs. Singers

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    Senior Member realdealblues's Avatar
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    Default General Question: Orchestra vs. Singers

    Some people listen to opera for different reasons.

    I know for some people the singing is more important than the playing, but for others the music is more important than the singing.

    So, I'm just asking in general:

    When you're purchasing an audio recording of an Opera do generally look more at who's singing or who's conducting/playing?

    Or said another way I guess:

    Would you rather have "Competent" or "Just Ok" singers with a great conductor and orchestra with great choices of tempo, phrasing, etc?

    Or would you rather have "Excellent or Fantastic" singers but with a "Competent" or "Just Ok." conductor and orchestra where maybe the tempos and phrasing aren't quite what they should be?

    Which direction would or do you tend to lean towards?

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    but for others the music is more important than the singing.
    I thought singing is music.

    Unless you had Wagner on your mind.

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    This question, apart from personal taste, I think it could receive a different answer, for each different opera.

    Speaking in more general terms, and going with Bellini's famous quote: "il dramma per musica deve far piangere, inorridire, morire... cantando!", I consider singing the most important feature for Italian 19th century opera.

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    Senior Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I nearly always purchase recordings based upon who the singers are. Nikolaus Harnoncourt can sometimes drive me crazy with his quirky interpretive style, but the fact that he's conducting won't deter me from purchasing the recording if some of my favorite singers are in the cast. Case in point: the Zürich Opera Fidelio with Jonas Kaufmann and Camilla Nylund.

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    Senior Member realdealblues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    I thought singing is music.

    Unless you had Wagner on your mind.
    Semantics...

    There are dozens of operas which I would be happy to listen to without vocals because the "orchestral score" is so well written.

    Sometimes you can't find a recording of an Opera with "both" great orchestral playing and great singing.

    In such a case which way do you lean? Better Orchestral Performance? Or Better Singing Performance?

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    I pick for singers over conductors always, but am aware of the different takes a conductor can bring to a piece.

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    Senior Member SixFootScowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I nearly always purchase recordings based upon who the singers are. Nikolaus Harnoncourt can sometimes drive me crazy with his quirky interpretive style, but the fact that he's conducting won't deter me from purchasing the recording if some of my favorite singers are in the cast. Case in point: the Zürich Opera Fidelio with Jonas Kaufmann and Camilla Nylund.
    I bought the Bernstein (1978) Fidelio based on the whole production and really love all the singers, especially Gundula Janowitz and Manfred Jungwirth. Generally I don't concern myself with specific singers when buying a CD so long as I like the vocals on a particular work it doesn't matter who sings them, but for a DVD the acting is very important too.
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
    --Malcolm X

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    I buy almost exclusively for singers, but sometimes conductors can do terrible things to the music even with a top-notch cast:

    Natalie

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I have yet to purchase an opera recording for the conductor alone. When considering which recording of an opera to buy I look at the whole picture -- singers, conductor, score completeness, sound quality. I read what others have said about the recording, and I consider whether or not it would be likely to fit my own personal tastes.

    Honestly, I really know very little about what constitutes a well-conducted opera performance. But I do know that I tend to prefer conducting that is "elastic" rather than "rigid." Hence my general preference for Abbado over Muti, etc. However, I have Muti's recordings of Verdi's MACBETH and ATTILA because I like the casts.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Jan-07-2014 at 23:32.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    I look at the whole package.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    I buy almost exclusively for singers, but sometimes conductors can do terrible things to the music even with a top-notch cast:

    I haven't heard the recording, but based on other Karajan recordings I've heard his style isn't really to my taste. Too slow and analytical.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I haven't heard the recording, but based on other Karajan recordings I've heard his style isn't really to my taste. Too slow and analytical.
    It's more like a requiem than a dramma giocoso.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Rachmanijohn's Avatar
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    I try to find a good balance between the two. I guess that's why it takes me a long time to finally settle on what I would consider my "ideal" recording of a particular opera.
    "I liked your opera. I think I will set it to music." - Beethoven

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    It's more like a requiem than a dramma giocoso.
    It's called gravitas.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Senior Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I haven't heard the recording, but based on other Karajan recordings I've heard his style isn't really to my taste. Too slow and analytical.
    It doesn't help that Sam is upholstered like a strange piece of Louis XV furniture.
    "No preluding! Piano pianissimo -- then all will be well." (Posted in the orchestra pit on August 13, 1876)

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