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Thread: Vocal recitals.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    Even if you don't care for the VLL with piano, the rest of the disc will make up for it.
    You are absolutely right. This is a delightful recital including the VLL. Her voice is lovely even allowing for that ultra-quick vibrato. Illuminated a fair few of Strauss' lieder for me. I wasn't fully up to speed with Bonney as an artist but now I will be seeking more of her output.
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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbebleu View Post
    You are absolutely right. This is a delightful recital including the VLL. Her voice is lovely even allowing for that ultra-quick vibrato. Illuminated a fair few of Strauss' lieder for me. I wasn't fully up to speed with Bonney as an artist but now I will be seeking more of her output.
    Bonney’s CD of Scandinavian songs “Diamonds in the Snow” is one of my favorites.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    Bonney’s CD of Scandinavian songs “Diamonds in the Snow” is one of my favorites.
    You and Greg seem to be determined to ruin me!
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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Zaide: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben
    La finta giardinera: Crudeli fermate... A dal pianto
    La clemenza di Tito: S'altro che lagrime
    Cosí fan tutte: Ei parte...Senti... Per pietà
    Il rè pastore: L'amerò,sarò costanze
    Lucia Silla: Pupille amate
    Idomeneo: Se il padre perdei
    Die Zauberflöte: Ach ich fühl's


    Kiri Te Kanawa became known to the world when she sang Let the bright Seraphim at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, but opera afficionados had known of her for at least ten years before that. I remember very clearly seeing a TV broadcast frm Glyndebourne of Le Nozze di Figaro, in which Te Kanawa played the Countess, Ileana Cotruas Susanna and Frederica Von Stade Cherubino. It effectively launched all three ladies' international careers, and it was principally as a Mozart singer that Te Kanawa became known.

    Later she sang roles by Verdi (the gentler heroines like Desdemona and Amelia in Simon Boccanegrea), Puccini (Mimi and Manon), Strauss (the Marschallin, Countess Madeleine and Arabella), as well as Gounod's Margeurite, Tatyana and Barber's Vanessa, but I still think of her chiefly as a Mozart specialist, and it is in this repertoire that I enjoy her most.

    It is good to see so many arias taken from Mozart's lesser known operas, but the recital tends to concentrate on gracefully flowing arias, and so there is little variety. Of course there is much pleasure to be gained from the beauty of Dame Kiri's creamy soprano, and her technical command of the music, but she evinces little character and the recital tends to settle back comfortably into its frame. You could of course argue that the music demands no more than it is given, and, for most of the music you'd probably be right, but when it comes to the recitative and aria from Cosí fan tutte, my mind kept going back to a more sharply characterised, but no less scrupulously sung version by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and I couldn't help but wonder what she would have made of a similar collection.

    Still, we should be grateful for what we have. It is rare indeed to hear such accomplished singing (and orchestral playing) allied to such a glorious voice. The disc certainly plays to her strengths, that is a voice of creamy beauty, even throughout its range, and maybe it is better experienced piecemeal, rather than in one sitting, when you'd be less inclined to notice the lack of variety in the programme.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    This disc was recorded back in 2003, when Joseph Calleja was a virtually unknown twenty-six year old, and on the threshhold of his career. At that time, the voice was a light lyric tenor with a distinctive fast vibrato, more akin to the sound of tenors like De Lucia and Bonci than what we have become used to since.

    Repertoire on the disc is judicially chosen, and I am very surprised to see that in his most recent disc of Verdi arias, he tackles music for Otello, Manrico and Radames (though I don't think he has sung any of these roles on stage yet). Listening to the performances on this disc, one wouldn't suspect for a moment that the voice would develop to embrace that repertoire. So far he has taken his career slowly and I do hope he doesn't push himself too far.

    But back to the recital disc in question, and I must say I find it very satisfying. Far from the can belto of so many tenors, there is lighness and grace to his singing, and he refreshingly brings as much attention to recitative as he does to an aria. Take the opening piece, the recitative to Alfredo's Dei miei bollenti spiriti, which brims with joyful high spirits, softening with a touch of intimacy at Qui presso a lei. The aria itself is sung with a nice buoyancy and affectionate phrasing, switching to a more propulsive manner for the cabeltta.

    The Macbeth aria is sung with a deep sense of melancholy, whilst the Duke is all charm and insouciance, though the top D he attempts is a little insecure. Nemorino's Quanto e bella is delivered with a nice winsome charm, and Edgardo's final scene is suitably tragic.

    I'm not sure the aria from Adrianna Lecouvreur was a good choice for him, as it seems to cry out for a beefier sound. Nevertheless his restraint is most welcome, and it is good to be free of all those sobs and aspirates that used to pass for emotion in some Italian tenors of an earlier generation

    In all Riccardo Chailly offers impeccable support, and it is good that scenes are given complete with chorus and interjections from other singers (Linda Easley as Annina and Giovanni Battista Parodi as Raimondo).

    All in all a very successful debut recital, and it is good to know that Calleja is still active today, largely fulfilling the promise he showed in this one.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  10. #36
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    This four disc set is of recordings made between in the 1940s and early 1950s, when Tebaldi was in her twenties. It is a mixture of live and studio recordings, so sound quality varies quite a bit. It is also a convenient grouping together of four different discs issued by Fonit Cetra in 2002, which no doubt explains why we get so many different performances of the same aria. Given that there is little difference between them, you may decide you don't need to listen to four different performances of La mamma morta and of Desdemona's Willow Song.

    And of course the first thing we need to say is that it was an extraordnarily beautiful voice, even throughout its range, firm and rich, her diction admirably clear, though, even at the beginning the very top could sound strained and off pitch. The top C climax to her 1950 Cetra studio recording of Aida's O patria mia is hard won and slightly under the note and the voice's greatest beauty lies in the middle register, though many of today's sopranos would also kill for the richness down below. Nor is she an unfeeling performer, though, at this stage in her career, it can tempt her into excess, especially when singing live, and she tends to sound lacrymose rather than truly moving. She goes way over the top in Desdemona's Willow Song, and she is much more restrained, and consequently more moving, in the Decca Karajan recording. The other thing to say about Tebaldi is that, however beautiful the voice, however firm the delivery, however musical her singing, her performances rarely stay in the memory, nor does she ever really light up a phrase or a line the way others can. Performances of some of this same music, by such as Muzio, Callas, Caballé, De Los Angeles and Schwarzkopf resonate in my mind's ear, and I can often recall individual details. With Tebaldi I never can. I can recall the sound of the voice, but little that is specific to the music she is singing. In these early performances, I found that she often over-characterises the music, introducing sobs and emphases which detract from the beauty of the sound, rather than make it more dramatic. It is somewhat akin to watching a hammy actor.

    A few specifics then about the discs themselves. Disc 1 covers studio recordings made for Decca and Fonit Cetra in 1949 and 1950, arias from Aida, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Otello, La Boheme, Mefistofele, La Wally, Andrea Chénier and, most surprisingly Susanna's Deh vieni from Le Nozze di Figaro, though she makes a very heavyweight Susanna, and this is the least successful item on the first disc. Recorded sound here is fine here, and there is certainly much pleasure to be gained from the voice itself.

    The prize of Disc 2 is some extended excerpts from a 1951 concert performance of Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco with Carlo Bergonzi and Rolando Panerai. Though she is taxed by some of the coloratura, the role suits her well. Also excellent are the two extracts from a 1950 performance of the Verdi Requiem under Toscanini, with Giacinto Pradelli, Cloe Elmo and Cesare Siepi. It is somewhat dimly recorded, but you can hear how fine she was in this work. Why Decca never recorded her in it is beyond me. A welcome surprise is Elisabeth's Dich, teure Halle (in Italian) from Tannhäuser. It is also good to hear the young Di Stefano in a 1950 concert performance of the Act I duet from Madama Butterfly.

    Disc 3 is entitled Gli Inediti, which is presumably of previously unissued recordings. This time she sings the Countess's Porgi amor but, though more suited to the character, Mozart is not really her métier. The excerpts from a 1949 performance of Andrea Chénier wih Del Monaco are prime examples of that hamminess I alluded to, but she gives us a lovely performance of Louise's Depuis le jour in Italian. It lacks Callas's quiet intensity and mounting rapture, but is much more securely sung and works well on its own terms. The disc closes with a small piece of history; a 1945 performance of the love duet from Otello, with the then almost sixty year old Francesco Merli, though recording here is at its dimmest. Nevertheless it affords us a glimpse of the great tenor in one of his most famous roles.

    The fourth disc pits Tebaldi against her teacher, Carmen Melis. Excerpts from Tebaldi's first recordings of La Boheme and Madama Butterfly, which I personally prefer to her later recordings under Serafin, and arias from Manon Lescaut and Tosca, all very fine. Melis is caught in excerpts from Tosca and Massenet's Manon. She is a singer who is new to me, and I must say I found her very impressive, and actually more communicative than her pupil, though the top C at the line Io quella lama gli piantai nel cor is a little precarious, and she takes the upper option on the word cor. The Manon excerpt is Manon's N'est-ce plus ma main (in Italian) from the duet with Des Grieux, and she is wonderfully seductive and persuasive.

    Tebaldi is a central singer in that she demonstrates most of the virtues of good singing. The voice is a beautiful one, the line always firmly held, her legato generally excellent. Her only faults are a lack of a trill and clumsy execution of fast moving music (hardly necessary in most of the music she sang) and a slightly short top. (I remember that in her interview with Luca Rasponi for the book The Last of the Prima Donnas, she bemoans the ever rising pitch of modern orcehstras, which must have been a nightmare for her.) My preferences are well know, and I prefer singers who have something more specific to say about the music they assay, but the set is one I still enjoy dipping into from time to time.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Well this is something of a hotch potch, no doubt explained by its provenance - music included in the 1991 documentary film made after his recovery from leukemia My Barcelona, a celebration of the unique relationship between the man and the city of his birth.

    What we get is a mixture of operatic arias, popular song and excerpts from Ramirez's Navidad Nuestra and Misa Criola, which, surprisingly perhaps, makes for a pleasantly varied disc.

    No great revelations, I suppose. Carreras is at his honeyed best in Cavaradossi's E lucevan le stelle from the 1976 Davis recording of Tosca, a performance of poetic beauty, made before some of the heavier repertoire he essayed took a toll on his essentially lyric tenor, but most of the selections give pleasure. I particularly enjoy his version with piano of Mompou's haunting Damunt de tu només los flors and the Ramirez pieces are also great fun.

    An undemanding but enjoyable disc.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    On 17 February 1959, Joan Sutherland sang her first Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden. She had first been engaged at Covent Garden in 1952, singing small parts, such as Clotilde to Callas's Norma. That same year she sang her first leading role there (Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera), but the administration didn't at first realise her potential and the roles she sang (Agathe, The Countess, Desdemona, Gilda, Eva, Pamina, Lady Rich in Gloriana and Jennifer in Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage) gave no real indication of the direction her career would take. She herself had thought she would be a Wagnerian soprano, but Richard Bonynge, who married her in 1954, eventually convinced her otherwise, and in 1959 Covent Garden gave her the honour of a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Tullio Serafin. Sutherland proved a sensation, and, at the age of 35, she became a star, in demand all over the world for dramatic coloratura roles.

    This disc adds to her debut recital, made shortly after the Covent Garden Lucia, two arias from one of her most successful sets The Art of the Prima Donna (Casta diva and the I Puritani Mad Scene), recorded in 1960 and Santo di patria, lifted from another set The Age of Bel Canto, recorded in 1963.

    Those who know me will know I am not much of a Sutherland fan. The mannerisms (the mushy diction especially, the droopy portamenti, the weak lower register) that crept in as early as the 1960s irritate me so much I find it hard to listen, and the beauty of the voice is no compensation.

    It is good to be reminded, then, that it was not always so, and she sounds quite different here, the voice much more forwardly produced, and, even if she rarely uses the words to suddenly bring a phrase into sharp relief, there is nothing much wrong with her diction in these discs. Maybe this has something to do with the conductors she was working with then, all Italians, Nello Santi for the debut recital, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli for The Art of the Prima Donna, Tullio Serafin at Covent Garden. Interestingly Serafin advised her to study the role of Lady Macbeth, but Bonynge obviously thought otherwise.

    The main meat of the disc, however, is that first ever recital made with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra under Nello Santi. Lucia's two big solos were an obvious choice, to which are added Merce, dilette amiche from Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, Ernani! Ernani involami from Ernani and O luce di quest'anima from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix.

    Throughout the technical command is stunning, as is the beauty of voice, the top notes, of which there are many, one of its greatest glories. Nor is she just a technical machine. Though there is little attempt at vocal characterisation (Norma doesn't sound much different from Lucia), she is not an unfeeling singer. There is command in Norma's Sediziose voce, poetic feeling in the recitative to the Ernani aria, breezy grace in the aria from I Vespri Siciliani.

    Fresh from the success of the Covent Garden performances, the Lucia arias are predictably best of all. Here not only is the execution vocally stunning, but she is the very epitome of the young Romantic heroine, driven mad by despair. Like Callas, she is a far cry from the piping, doll-like sopranos who had made Lucia something of a laughing stock among opera cognoscenti. Unfortunately already by her first complete recording of the opera made in 1961, the tone has become more occluded, the diction less precise, the vowels begin to be rounded and dulled, and the vitality and immediacy heard here starts to droop.

    Though vital and alive in the scene from Verdi's Attila, conducted by Richard Bonynge, the diction is not as clear as it is on that frst recital, though the recording here does give some indication as to the size and fullness of the voice. Even with that small niggle about the diction, this is still a stunning performance, thrilliingly dramatic, and I've never heard it better sung. Deutekom on the Philips complete set is pallid by comparison.

    This disc, along with The Art of the Prima Donna are, I would suggest, essential Sutherland, and remain permanent parts of my collection. The rest, personally, I can live without.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Apr-30-2019 at 11:49.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    ^^^ My sentiments exactly. The Art of the Prima Donna was my introduction to Sutherland in the years when opera was new to me, and I never suspected that I would later become indifferent to her. It's always good to hear examples of her early work to be reminded of what delighted me back then.

    These vocal recital reviews are a great idea, and, needless to say, wonderfully knowledgeable and well-written. Thanks, Greg!

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ^^^ My sentiments exactly. The Art of the Prima Donna was my introduction to Sutherland in the years when opera was new to me, and I never suspected that I would later become indifferent to her. It's always good to hear examples of her early work to be reminded of what delighted me back then.

    These vocal recital reviews are a great idea, and, needless to say, wonderfully knowledgeable and well-written. Thanks, Greg!
    Thanks, though I think you might be just about the only one reading them.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    I'm reading them too, Greg!
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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post


    Zaide: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben
    La finta giardinera: Crudeli fermate... A dal pianto
    La clemenza di Tito: S'altro che lagrime
    Cosí fan tutte: Ei parte...Senti... Per pietà
    Il rè pastore: L'amerò,sarò costanze
    Lucia Silla: Pupille amate
    Idomeneo: Se il padre perdei
    Die Zauberflöte: Ach ich fühl's


    Kiri Te Kanawa became known to the world when she sang Let the bright Seraphim at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, but opera afficionados had known of her for at least ten years before that. I remember very clearly seeing a TV broadcast frm Glyndebourne of Le Nozze di Figaro, in which Te Kanawa played the Countess, Ileana Cotruas Susanna and Frederica Von Stade Cherubino. It effectively launched all three ladies' international careers, and it was principally as a Mozart singer that Te Kanawa became known.

    Later she sang roles by Verdi (the gentler heroines like Desdemona and Amelia in Simon Boccanegrea), Puccini (Mimi and Manon), Strauss (the Marschallin, Countess Madeleine and Arabella), as well as Gounod's Margeurite, Tatyana and Barber's Vanessa, but I still think of her chiefly as a Mozart specialist, and it is in this repertoire that I enjoy her most.

    It is good to see so many arias taken from Mozart's lesser known operas, but the recital tends to concentrate on gracefully flowing arias, and so there is little variety. Of course there is much pleasure to be gained from the beauty of Dame Kiri's creamy soprano, and her technical command of the music, but she evinces little character and the recital tends to settle back comfortably into its frame. You could of course argue that the music demands no more than it is given, and, for most of the music you'd probably be right, but when it comes to the recitative and aria from Cosí fan tutte, my mind kept going back to a more sharply characterised, but no less scrupulously sung version by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and I couldn't help but wonder what she would have made of a similar collection.

    Still, we should be grateful for what we have. It is rare indeed to hear such accomplished singing (and orchestral playing) allied to such a glorious voice. The disc certainly plays to her strengths, that is a voice of creamy beauty, even throughout its range, and maybe it is better experienced piecemeal, rather than in one sitting, when you'd be less inclined to notice the lack of variety in the programme.
    I have Te Kanawa singing Mozart's concert arias. She seems, to my ears, a bit uninvolved emotionally. Well sung but I need more than that I'm afraid. Particularly where Mozart is concerned.
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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbebleu View Post
    I have Te Kanawa singing Mozart's concert arias. She seems, to my ears, a bit uninvolved emotionally. Well sung but I need more than that I'm afraid. Particularly where Mozart is concerned.
    I do too really. I do think the voice was a beautiful one, and most of the arias on this disc play to her strengths, but it's a bit monotonous listened to all in one sitting.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMitchell View Post
    Thanks, though I think you might be just about the only one reading them.
    Definitely not!

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    This two-disc compilation is drawn from the EMI catalogue and includes arias taken both from complete sets and recital discs.

    People often go misty-eyed at the mere mention of Franco Corelli and he still inspires a huge following among opera lovers. For many he can do no wrong, and certianly the voice was a magnificent one, unique and no doubt a God-given gift. For me it's more often a case of (to paraphrase the song from A Chorus Line) voice ten, artistry three. Not always, I hasten to add, and, if the performances on this set are anything to go by, he did respond to a strong hand at the helm. Predictably the best of them tend to be taken from complete sets, particularly those conducted by Zubin Mehta (Celeste Aida), Lovro von Matacic (Vesti la giubba) and Tullio Serafin (Pollione's Meco all'altar di Venere from the second Callas Norma), which is arguably the best of all).

    These are all on Disc One, where elsewhere there is just too much can belto sobbing. Manrico's Ah si, ben mio, from the Schippers complete set, is delivered at a relentless forte (why not his stunning Di qella pira, I wonder?), as are the excerpts from the Santini recording of Andrea Chénier. Worst of all is the graceless, over-loud version of Roméo's Ah, lève-toi, soleil, sung in execrable French. Listen to this and then to Bjørling, Kraus, Gedda or Alagna to hear how beautifully poetic the aria can sound.

    Disc 2 has even less to commend it, I'm afraid. The best performances are taken from a recital record with an unknown orchestra under one, Franco Ferraris. Cavaradossi's Recondita armonia lacks poetry, but E lucevan le stelle is much better, though he rather ruins the final measures with an excess of sobbing. Cielo e mar is also a fine, sensitive performance, with the added bonus of those gloriously free and ringing top notes.

    But the less said about some of the items though, the better. After the operatic arias, we are treated (I'm not sure that is the correct word) to a selection from, presumably, a record of sacred arias, all in absolutey ghastly arrangements. Handel's ubiquitous Largo from Semele is mangled almost beyond recognition, the Schubert and Bach/Gounod Ave Marias sung through a sort of treacle soup, and Rossini's Domine Deus from the Petite Messe Solenelle bludgeoned to death. Franck's Panis angelicus, taken, by the looks of things, from another album, doesn't fare much better, nor, surprisngly does Lara's Granada from the same album. Not entirely Corelli's fault, as the arrangement is quite possibly the most ghastly I've ever heard, the tempo pulled around so much the piece loses any sense of flow. What price Wunderlich's gloriously ebullient and sunny version for DG? Corelli sounds plain angry.

    Fortunately the final two items somewhat redeem this sorry mess. The arrangements might not be much better, but in Cardillo's Core 'ngrato and De Curtis's Torna a Sorriento, one just basks in the Mediterranean warmth of Corelli's glorious tenor. It is moments like these that remind us of why we listen to him.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; May-02-2019 at 22:10.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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