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Thread: Heroic Mezzos and Baritones

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default Heroic Mezzos and Baritones

    I'm creating this thread for two reasons
    1) The middle children of the fach world don't get enough attention.
    2) I often find medium-low voices to be more heroic than higher voices due to their greater facility in the middle register.


    I'll start things off with two of each:

    mezzos

    Agnes Baltsa
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKlryEzpUOA

    Oralia Dominguez
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQkTo5D_yYY


    baritones

    Hakan Hagegard
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzJoQrfKAQk

    Sherrill Milnes
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGk3UmtfAP4
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Sep-12-2018 at 03:45.

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    I am not sure what is required for the mezzo to be heroic but let me suggest Vesselina Kasarova.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    I am not sure what is required for the mezzo to be heroic but let me suggest Vesselina Kasarova.
    Heroic to me means a singer who conveys something triumphal and awe-inspiring. something with zeal, but also a degree of grandeur rather than banality (to use a counter example, screaming protesters have plenty of conviction, but they are banal and far from anything heroic).

    Another baritone example (though this one isn't an opera singer) illustrates what I mean. From the second he opens his mouth he oozes pride, victory, nobility.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieKEFAJFjbA

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Tatiana Troyanos as Eboli, stunnig!
    Theatre, a forum for public debate, an arena for cathartic spectacle and somewhere for vain bitchy people to show off in front of big crowds!

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Well unless we are looking for specific arias of heroic subjects and heroic characters, I think you are mainly looking for extraordinary singing. I do think that Kasarova is conveying something awesome here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut6n40H2BYU


    And perhaps these as well here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xZQpZPkWcc
    https://youtu.be/3uF_SlPyWmw?t=21
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Sep-12-2018 at 05:56.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    Well unless we are looking for specific arias of heroic subjects and heroic characters, I think you are mainly looking for extraordinary singing.
    not quite, I'm looking for a specific kind of extraordinary singing. for example, many singers have sung Carmen extraordinarily, but there is nothing heroic about the role or the accompanying music**. similarly, there is nothing heroic about The Duke of Mantua, Figaro (either of them) or Tosca. from the standpoint of individual arias, Casta Diva, Glitter and Be Gay and Una Voce Poco Fa are all lovely arias which can make my jaw drop if sung by an amazing singer, but none of them are the least bit heroic (though in the case of Casta Diva, the caballetta is).

    **I make the distinction between these two because a piece can have a heroic vibe to it even if the actual character him/herself isn't all that heroic. A good example would be when Joan Sutherland Lucrezia Borgia. From my understanding at least, the plot seems to be more along the lines of a BBC special on conspiring aristocrats (ex: Downton Abbey), but when Joan sings the final aria she sounds like a mighty, noble queen. you could say someone can convey a heroic vibe even in a setting which doesn't overtly call for it.

    as for the clips themselves. I can address those specifically when I have a free moment (been a fan of Karasova for awhile, so chances are I'll agree with you).
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Sep-12-2018 at 09:01.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    I can think of Ludwig Weber's Gürnemanz role in Parsifal, especially the Moralt WSO and the Bayreuth 52 season, without ignoring the many Holländers that have performed the Wagner opera: Hermann Uhde comes to mind

    It's not easy to find Baritones in hero guises in operas, and of all the important ones, I haven't found many baritone roles in French opera that went away from the evil guy. In Mussorgsky's music, both Boris Godunov and Ivan Khovanshi can sound quite heroic in some passages. Nicolai Ghiaurov has recorded both roles but I don't remember his voice as really heroic.

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Bastianini always struck me as being much more involved and interested in his roles when playing a more heroic role like Rodrigo than playing dad roles like Germont, which he tended to sleepwalk through. Unfortunately there aren't really that many heroic roles for baritones in the Italian rep, I sometimes wonder what Bastianini might have done in the German repertoire.

    One person who I don't think is great in more heroic roles--Gobbi, who makes everyone he plays sound like Scarpia.

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    I can think of Ludwig Weber's Gürnemanz role in Parsifal, especially the Moralt WSO and the Bayreuth 52 season, without ignoring the many Holländers that have performed the Wagner opera: Hermann Uhde comes to mind

    It's not easy to find Baritones in hero guises in operas, and of all the important ones, I haven't found many baritone roles in French opera that went away from the evil guy. In Mussorgsky's music, both Boris Godunov and Ivan Khovanshi can sound quite heroic in some passages. Nicolai Ghiaurov has recorded both roles but I don't remember his voice as really heroic.
    Gurnemanz, Godunov, Khovansky are all bass roles, and Ghiaurov is a bass.

    edited to add--Uhde's great contributions to my mind are as tormented men, not heroic ones--Hollander and Klingsor. I don't think his Wotan was particularly good.

    Oh and Weber's a bass too.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Sep-12-2018 at 18:27.

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    Gurnemanz, Godunov, Khovansky are all bass roles, and Ghiaurov is a bass.

    edited to add--Uhde's great contributions to my mind are as tormented men, not heroic ones--Hollander and Klingsor. I don't think his Wotan was particularly good.

    Oh and Weber's a bass too.
    Thank you from a non-music-student, mr. professor.

    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    2) I often find medium-low voices to be more heroic than higher voices due to their greater facility in the middle register
    1. After listening to lots of French, and now Russian operas, I have started to think the line between tenor, baritone and bass is quite thin. Vinay's Telramund in Lohengrin is one from a baritenor, and in prime years, I found Weber's range to be equally or more Flexible than Hotter's. They have, of course, the necessary ease at the low notes, but I'm usually struck when they reach the sharpest passages and they attack it with enough intensity.

    Also, I've seen different ways of Casting Pelléas in the Debussy opera. I'm not very sure who is more suited to play it, but my preference is a standard tenor, although some efforts with bari-tenors like Uppman in a Morel live recording can also be serviceable.

    2. I'm going to leave this thread because I'm not quite agreeing in the concept of "heroism" that is being demanded. I do think it comes from the composer's demands and ideas of the 19th and 20th century, but I'm seeing some ideas so easily asumed about "heroism" from such a masculine point of view, that I prefer not to confuse with the present times.

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    Thank you from a non-music-student, mr. professor.



    1. After listening to lots of French, and now Russian operas, I have started to think the line between tenor, baritone and bass is quite thin. Vinay's Telramund in Lohengrin is one from a baritenor, and in prime years, I found Weber's range to be equally or more Flexible than Hotter's. They have, of course, the necessary ease at the low notes, but I'm usually struck when they reach the sharpest passages and they attack it with enough intensity.

    Also, I've seen different ways of Casting Pelléas in the Debussy opera. I'm not very sure who is more suited to play it, but my preference is a standard tenor, although some efforts with bari-tenors like Uppman in a Morel live recording can also be serviceable.

    2. I'm going to leave this thread because I'm not quite agreeing in the concept of "heroism" that is being demanded. I do think it comes from the composer's demands and ideas of the 19th and 20th century, but I'm seeing some ideas so easily asumed about "heroism" from such a masculine point of view, that I prefer not to confuse with the present times.
    Sorry to offend. I didn't mean to, but I think these are pretty clear and accepted distinctions that are recognized pretty widely. These are famously bass roles that are taken by famous basses--Ghiaurov, Christoff, and the like.

    Yes, sometimes German bass-baritones will take some bass roles. Yes, some roles bridge these broad fach categories, like Pelleas being written for a baryton-martin, which is most often cast by tenors. And some singers will switch--Vinay was a baritone who switched to tenor, then switched back to baritone in his later years. But while Weber was a bass who shared some roles with Hotter, who was a bass-baritone who sang many of the Wagner bass roles, Weber didn't do the reverse--he stuck to the bass repertoire, he sang Daland not the Hollander, he sang Gurnemanz not Amfortas, he sang the bass villains in the Ring, not Wotan, he sang Pogner not Sachs. These aren't arbitrary choices.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Sep-12-2018 at 18:55.

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    From baritones, I would pick Titta Ruffo in L'Africana where he sings about the awesome power of the sea and the legend of the mythical god of the sea Adamastor. Relying on Google translate, the aria includes

    Adamastor, king of the deep waters
    at the roar of the winds we move on the waves.
    And when his foot tramples on the waves
    misfortune to you, sailors and sailors!
    In light of the fires and lightnings,
    do you see it? ... It's the giant of the sea,
    raises the waters up to the sky


    So we have the triumphal & awe-inspiring elements you are looking for and the way Ruffo sings it would certainly be zealous, inspiring the men to head towards the storm, risking life and limb. It's a heroic effort and it's function is quite subversive - he is trying to kill the Europeans including Vasco de Gama, the tenor lead.

    Everything about Lawrence Tibbett's Simon Boccanegra was on an epic scale - he was a superb vocal actor as well


    Ezio's cabaletta in Verdi's Attila, as you suggest with your Milnes post, suggests a similar vein of heroism and determination

    My fate is thrown,
    Ready I am at every war;
    I'll fall asleep,
    And my name will remain.
    I will not see my beloved land
    Slow revelry and be heard ...
    Over the last Roman all Italy will cry
    Among Mezzos, Ebe Stignani in Don Carlo cursing her beauty and resolving to save Carlo is pretty astonishing


    Ortrud's outburst is the probably closest thing in the mezzo-soprano's repertoire to the venom and grandness of Medea seeking revenge

    Ye gods profaned! Help me now in my revenge!
    Punish the ignominy that you have suffered here!
    Strengthen me in the service of your holy cause!
    Destroy the vile delusions of the apostate!
    Woden! I call on you, O god of strength!
    Freyja! Hear me, O exalted one!
    Bless my deceit and hypocrisy,
    that I may be successful in my revenge!
    Last edited by davidglasgow; Sep-12-2018 at 19:23.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    not quite, I'm looking for a specific kind of extraordinary singing. for example, many singers have sung Carmen extraordinarily, but there is nothing heroic about the role or the accompanying music**. similarly, there is nothing heroic about The Duke of Mantua, Figaro (either of them) or Tosca. from the standpoint of individual arias, Casta Diva, Glitter and Be Gay and Una Voce Poco Fa are all lovely arias which can make my jaw drop if sung by an amazing singer, but none of them are the least bit heroic (though in the case of Casta Diva, the caballetta is).
    I'd hazard that Tosca was heroic - she thought that by sacrificing herself to Scarpia she was saving Cavaradossi's life. When Scarpia betrayed her, she was brave enough to face him. Arguably the apotheosis of Act II is not when she kills Scarpia but the moments after when she pardons him according to her faith. She was forced to do a terrible thing but does everything in her gift - candles, the crucifix, her forgiveness - because she was better than Scarpia.

    Later, Cavaradossi sings 'O dolce mani'
    CAVARADOSSI
    lovingly taking her hands in his
    My Saviour!
    Oh sweet hands pure and gentle,
    Oh hands meant for the fair works of piety,
    Caressing children, gathering roses,
    For prayers when others meet misfortune …
    Then it was in you, made strong by love,
    That justice placed her sacred weapons?
    You dealt out death, victorious hands,
    Oh sweet hand pure and gentle.

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Hotter & London are my 2 favorite Heroic Baritones. Immediately distinguishable, beautiful, & powerful, both of them.
    Last edited by Bonetan; Sep-13-2018 at 00:22.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    1. After listening to lots of French, and now Russian operas, I have started to think the line between tenor, baritone and bass is quite thin. Vinay's Telramund in Lohengrin is one from a baritenor, and in prime years, I found Weber's range to be equally or more Flexible than Hotter's. They have, of course, the necessary ease at the low notes, but I'm usually struck when they reach the sharpest passages and they attack it with enough intensity.

    Also, I've seen different ways of Casting Pelléas in the Debussy opera. I'm not very sure who is more suited to play it, but my preference is a standard tenor, although some efforts with bari-tenors like Uppman in a Morel live recording can also be serviceable.
    there are some in-betweeners (and a few who think they are, but aren't. Domingo has no baritone in him for example), but they aren't really that common in male voices. it's more common for women to straddle soprano/mezzo (Verrett, Ponselle, Callas) or mezzo/contralto (Horne, Larmore), because women tend to have slightly larger ranges, but for 90% of men, the fach system is more clear (at least along the lines of the basic voice types. if we want to debate along the lines of what is a tenor leggiero vs light lyric tenor, basso cantabile vs bass-baritone, etc, there are a few are more up for debate).

    2. I'm going to leave this thread because I'm not quite agreeing in the concept of "heroism" that is being demanded. I do think it comes from the composer's demands and ideas of the 19th and 20th century, but I'm seeing some ideas so easily asumed about "heroism" from such a masculine point of view, that I prefer not to confuse with the present times.
    if it's too "masculine", you're welcome to share your thoughts on what heroism is from a feminine point of view (Talk Classical isn't a patriarchy ).

    other than that, I didn't demand a particularly significant definition (in fact, I didn't demand one at all in the OP). there is room for debate and alternative interpretations.
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Sep-13-2018 at 17:37.

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