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Thread: Singers from the stereo era who made too few recordings...

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    Default Singers from the stereo era who made too few recordings...

    Hi everyone,

    I’m making my forum debut with this rather long post, hoping that this is an appropriate thread and that I don't bore anyone to death.

    As a self-confessed opera nerd/geek and CD collector, I am always on the lookout for new listening pleasures. Sometimes, when browsing music streaming services, YouTube and other web sources, one comes across a really outstanding singer who, for one reason or another, has been all but neglected by the major record companies.

    Going back to the early days of recording, one will of course find many names that are long forgotten, even by the most ardent music lovers. Even in the stereo era, however, one can occasionally come across truly world-class performers who have left only a small handful of commercial recordings. Sometimes, those recordings don't even show the singers in the best light. Fortunately, the many “unofficial” recordings available in various formats often provide comfort.

    I would like to draw your attention to five such singers from the stereo era, as these artists really deserve being heard and will surely provide listening pleasure to anyone with an interest in opera. Some of the names will no doubt be familiar to many of you, while others may not.

    Please add to the thread any such “unsung hero(in)es” you would like to share with a fellow opera lover!


    JAMES MILLIGAN – Canadian baritone (1928–1961)

    Milligan was an exceptional Wanderer in a 1961 “Siegfried” from Bayreuth, conducted by Rudolf Kempe. Even though the recorded sound is very variable, and never more than passable, the qualities of Milligan’s performance still come across quite vividly. I have uploaded a sample to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB2hvM5byN4 (never mind his slight slip of the tongue at the start).

    Milligan was a favourite of Sir Malcom Sargent's, and made a small handful of recordings with him (Messiah, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast and – of all things – a few Gilbert & Sullivan operettas). To my ears, he handles the bass part in Messiah exceptionally well, with an impressive lower range for a singer who seemed to be more baritone than bass. Unfortunately, apart from a “Tosca” in English and a “Messiah” from Canada in poor sound, I have not been able to trace down any further recordings of Milligan.


    ANITA CERQUETTI – Italian soprano (born 1931)

    I'm sure you have seen her name, but have you really stopped to listen to her? She is mentioned on a couple of other threads here, and she certainly deserves it. If there was ever a better Italian dramatic soprano than Cerquetti, I have yet to hear her! Her career was frustratingly brief, but she did at least record a complete “La Gioconda” and a recital on Decca. There should have been so much more… Luckily, a number of "unofficial" live recordings exist.

    Try her Leonora in “La forza del destino”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVzmgFaixWU


    INGRID BJONER – Norwegian soprano (1927–2006)

    Bjoner had an important international career, singing leading roles in all the major opera houses worldwide. She excelled in several German roles, not least as Elsa in “Lohengrin”. It is difficult to understand why she was not used in more recordings – apart from a live “Die Frau ohne Schatten” on DG under Keilberth, a “Götterdämmerung” from Norway (she sings Gutrune) and a long-deleted “Messiah” on Eurodisc, she appears to have been neglected by the record companies altogether. A collection of live recordings is available on Orfeo d’Or, though, and both her Elsa and other roles are fortunately well documented in various “unofficial” recordings.

    A very interesting interview with her can be found on YouTube. Among the performance excerpts is an impressive Chrysotemis in Strauss’ “Elektra”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuBhkMCoyHU#t=2782


    GIANFRANCO CECCHELE – Italian tenor (born 1938)

    One of several fine tenors to live in the shadow of “The 3 Tenors” (along Giacomo Aragall, Franco Tagliavini, Giuseppe Giacomini, Vasile Moldoveanu and others). Not necessarily a model of subtlety (not an uncommon trait in this repertory...), but an excellent voice.

    He appeared as Turiddu in Karajan’s film version of “Cavalleria Rusticana” and on a recording of the early Verdi opera, “Aroldo”, on CBS/Sony under Eve Queler, but seems have to made no further commercial recordings available on CD.

    His Turiddu is very strong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YfN98_KEDM#t=3962


    CATARINA LIGENDZA – Swedish soprano (born 1937)

    Another Nordic soprano who, like Bjoner, excelled in the heavier part of the German repertory. Ligendza, too, had a major international career – her impressive CV includes leading roles in all the most prestigious opera houses worldwide, Bayreuth included.

    She can be heard in Jochum’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” on DG and in two opera films: as Chrysotemis in Böhm’s “Elektra” and as Senta in Sawallisch’s “Der fliegende Holländer”. She is also the Third Norn in Karajan’s “Götterdämmerung” on DG (luxury casting, indeed – a few years later, Ligendza was an excellent Brünnhilde herself). Fortunately, many “unofficial” recordings in good quality exist.

    Her Senta is first class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3BWRA9-bv4

    ----------

    Enjoy and explore!

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    I wish that all the singers of the second half of the 20th Century, when decent recorded sound existed, had recorded more. I can never hear enough of singers like Tucker, Bergonzi, Price, Tebaldi, etc. I would particularly enjoy more of them in complete opera recordings, rather than aria compilations.

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    This was released in Europe only it seems. Recorded at the absolute apex of a great career. She was much relived in my college days as "past it" and people would complain about her Met performances in the 80s. Hearing them again on Sirius, one wishes there were more, because no one, with the exception of Millo and Devia, has had that innate sense of Italian line and phrasing like Scotto. I, for one, can forgive a few acid high notes for the insight she brought to all her roles. If you admire her at all, this is THE Verdi recital- recorded before the top began to curdle. Get it through Amazon.
    image.jpg

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    I would add Maria Chiara, Mariella Devia, Gabriella Tucci and Daniela Dessi to the list of under recorded sopranos. Callas, Price, Caballe, Sutherland, Tebaldi and Freni got almost all of the plumb assignments from the big labels in those days, not that they weren't deserving! But major singers in the great opera houses, like those listed above, not to mention Leyla Gencer, Magda Olivera and Virginia Zeani surely should have recorded legacies as extensive as, say, Ileana Cotrubas! She was in every other operatic recording during the 70s. Like Cheryl Studer in the 80s and Angela Gheorghiu in the 90s. Nice, vanilla voices, but as memorable as some of the over-looked ones? Maybe not.
    Last edited by jdcbr; Aug-16-2014 at 01:30.

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    Renata Tebaldi, whom the Met termed "Ms. Sold Out".

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    Tebaldi is UNDER recorded? Really? Most of her repertoire is on commercial disc, several more than once (mono and stereo era).
    One of my personal favs, but not, I would say, under represented on recordings. I will say- I wish she wasn't always paired with DelMonaco.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdcbr View Post
    Tebaldi is UNDER recorded? Really? Most of her repertoire is on commercial disc, several more than once (mono and stereo era).
    One of my personal favs, but not, I would say, under represented on recordings. I will say- I wish she wasn't always paired with DelMonaco.
    Absolutely. At the dawn of the LP age, Tebaldi was the mainstay of the Decca catalogue for Italian opera, just as Callas was for EMI. The rivalry that existed between them on stage was carried on in the record stores, their recorded repertoire being much more similar to their on stage one, which stemmed from Walter Legge's conservatism. Callas begged to record some of her greatest stage successes (Anna Bolena, Imogene in Il Pirata, Lady Macbeth, Elena in I Vespri Siciliani, Armida etc), but Legge would have none of it, preferring to record her in operas he thought would sell better, some of which she never sang on stage (La Boheme, Manon Lescaut, I Pagliacci or had given up singing years ago Turandot, Cavalleria Rusticana). He flatly refused to record Medea too and she only got to record that by exercising a clause in her contract that enabled her to record one opera outside EMI. It was recorded by Ricordi, though eventually issued by EMI.

    It is also a great pity that Legge's conservatism meant he was so chary of mono. Whilst Decca were recording Tebaldi in stereo from the early to mid 1950s, Callas's operas were all recorded in mono, until La Gioconda in 1959, save for Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 1957, which was recorded in London rather than in Milan).

    However, stereo or not, it is Callas's recordings that have stood the test of time, and have remained the backbone of EMI's catalogue ever since. And now that Warner have taken over EMI, they are set to reissue them all again, in, so we are told, totally refurbished sound. Evidently Callas still sells.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    There are quite a few singers from that period I would like to be present in more recordings, in addition to the already mentioned above.

    Just to name a couple of sopranos: Anne McKnight, Gigliola Frazzoni, Ilva Ligabue...

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdcbr View Post
    I would add Maria Chiara, Mariella Devia, Gabriella Tucci and Daniela Dessi to the list of under recorded sopranos. Callas, Price, Caballe, Sutherland, Tebaldi and Freni got almost all of the plumb assignments from the big labels in those days, not that they weren't deserving! But major singers in the great opera houses, like those listed above, not to mention Leyla Gencer, Magda Olivera and Virginia Zeani surely should have recorded legacies as extensive as, say, Ileana Cotrubas! She was in every other operatic recording during the 70s. Like Cheryl Studer in the 80s and Angela Gheorghiu in the 90s. Nice, vanilla voices, but as memorable as some of the over-looked ones? Maybe not.
    Gencer and Cerquetti are major talents from 1950-60s but we have only a tiny handful of studio recordings to enjoy them from, most material is live in variable sound, I especially enjoy Anita Cerquetti in studio Gioconda and live Ernani......




    Elena Souliotis had a very short career but produced small number of stunning dramatic performances, her debut recording Nabucco "Abigaille" is legendary

    I am glad you mentioned Gabriella Tucci, I enjoy her work immensely along with Antonietta Stella from same period, but again only a handful of studio recordings to enjoy them from.
    Last edited by DarkAngel; Aug-16-2014 at 16:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post

    Elena Souliotis had a very short career but produced small number of stunning dramatic performances, her debut recording Nabucco "Abigaille" part is legendary

    When Decca signed Suliotis (as it was originally spelled), I'm sure they expected to get more out of her than they did. Unfortunately, after her fabulous Abigaille, the decline was rapid, and it wasn't long before she disappeared altogether. Nothing she did after that Nabucco, apart from the recital disc she did with De Fabritiis, was anywhere near that standard. Her Lady Macbeth, hollow toned and unstable is little short of disastrous and the Norma an oddity, because it was not recorded complete. She recovered slightly for the Anna Bolena, which does have a certain grandeur about it, though her technique isn't really up to it. Her last recording was of Santuzza, which is not nearly as taxing vocally, and it's not bad, but it's not great either.

    No if Suliotis is under-represented, it's because her career nose-dived very quickly, not for any other reason.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Marschallin Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Gencer and Cerquetti are major talents from 1950-60s but we have a tiny handful of studio recordings to enjoy them from, most material is live in variable sound, I especially enjoy Anita Cerquetti in studio Gioconda and live Ernani......




    Elena Souliotis had a very short career but produced small number of stunning dramatic performances, her debut recording Nabucco "Abigaille" part is legendary
    I am glad you mentioned Gabriella Tucci, I enjoy her work immensely along with Antonietta Stella from same period, but again only a handful of studio recordings to enjoy them from.
    A vigorous, but qualified, thumbs-up for Suliotis. Her Decca Abigaille is absolutely thrilling-- dramatic-expressivity, timbre, and line. She's a sort of 'Divina Minor'. Aside from that performance though. . . ;D
    "Let me have my own way in exactly everything, and a sunnier and more pleasant creature does not exist." - Thomas Carlyle

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    Senior Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I wish Fritz Wunderlich had lived to make more recordings -- as he surely would have. Another wonderful Mozart tenor from the mid-'60s/early '70s who is very underrepresented on recordings is Werner Krenn. There was a reason von Karajan chose him to finish recording Uriel's music for DG's Die Schöpfung after Wunderlich's tragic death. Yet he's only heard on a handful of opera recordings -- studio versions of Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito, and a live Vienna State Opera Idomeneo (as Idamante). I would have loved to hear his Tamino, Belmonte, and Ferrando, and he sounds as though he could have done well with Rossini, Gluck, and Handel (back in the days when the castrato roles were cast with tenors and baritones).

    Last edited by MAuer; Aug-16-2014 at 18:17.

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    MAuer,

    I share your appreciation of Wunderlich - he is a big personal favourite. His premature death was a big blow to the world of opera. Fortunately, he did at least record quite extensively in his all-too-brief career. (Have you checked out the three 10 CD sets on Membran?) He would certainly have recorded a lot more, though. Listening to the way his voice expanded and got heavier between the late '50s and his last recordings, without losing quality, one could perhaps even imagine that some of the lighter Wagner roles would be within his reach. Sigh.

    As for Krenn, he was indeed an excellent Mozart tenor. Actually, you can hear his Ferrando - there is a Maag "Così" on Arts (in reasonably clear, but very dry sound):

    Maag cosi.jpg

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    David Poleri, a tenor whose life was stricken down way too early in his career in a plane crash.
    ("Saint of Bleecker Street")
    Last edited by nina foresti; Aug-16-2014 at 20:51.

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    Senior Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OperaGeek View Post
    MAuer,

    I share your appreciation of Wunderlich - he is a big personal favourite. His premature death was a big blow to the world of opera. Fortunately, he did at least record quite extensively in his all-too-brief career. (Have you checked out the three 10 CD sets on Membran?) He would certainly have recorded a lot more, though. Listening to the way his voice expanded and got heavier between the late '50s and his last recordings, without losing quality, one could perhaps even imagine that some of the lighter Wagner roles would be within his reach. Sigh.

    As for Krenn, he was indeed an excellent Mozart tenor. Actually, you can hear his Ferrando - there is a Maag "Così" on Arts (in reasonably clear, but very dry sound):

    Maag cosi.jpg
    I wasn't aware of this, but now it's definitely on my list of recordings to buy. Thanks!

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