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Thread: Mario del Monaco

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    Default Mario del Monaco

    Few myths surrounding opera singers grate my cheese more than the persistent nonsense written about Mario Del Monaco. According to many critics, he is an unsubtle shouter and bellower who blasts through otherwise beautiful music while displaying no artistry. That's perhaps the strongest version of the myth, but you can find it in CD reviews especially. Even his defenders say that he was simply incapable of singing softly by nature, so we can't really fault him (attributing this idea to him without quoting, so it's hard to know if he really said it).

    Of course, this is completely false. Even if he said it himself, he was being overly modest. Del Monaco not only could sing softly, he did so frequently and beautifully. For example, this is taken from his recording of Fanciulla with Tebaldi. The crucial section "No Minnie non piangete" beginning at 3:28 is sung with contrasting dynamics throughout, and beautiful phrasing to boot. It is far more dynamic than Domingo's rendition with Neblett, which is fairly uniform in volume and is sung in Domingo's blandest mode. Yet Del Monaco was called a shouter, and Domingo a sensitive interpreter.


    Next, here's a recording of Ernani which del Monaco ends by singing beautiful pianissimi in an extremely expressive manner. (Starting at 1:56:56) Again, we hear his natural gift for phrasing.


    Here is his soft and expressive rendition of the opening lines of Un di all'azzurro spazio.


    Throughout this performance of Otello (which was not conducted by Karajan, who "reined" del Monaco in according to critics), Del Monaco sings with wonderful dynamics, employing lovely pianissimi at 4:46.


    What's more, when he was in heroic mode, Del Monaco did not just sing loudly. He poured passion and emotion into his singing to a degree few other singers can match. Listen to this performance of Ch'ella mi creda.

    His interpolated sob at 3:53 is wrenching. Today it would be considered vulgar. But that kind of total commitment to a role and the ability to express that commitment vocally was what moved and thrilled audiences back then, and the absence of it is why so many of us are left cold by today's performers. It wasn't just a "big" voice, it was a communicative voice, one capable of stirring the desperate passion that opera requires to work as an art form. If only there were a Mario del Monaco today! Del Monaco had a sophisticated technique that it took him ten years to master, and he used it to deliver some of the most intense, and yes, beautiful and subtle, operatic performances on record.
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; Aug-29-2019 at 22:10.

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    Senior Member Diminuendo's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum. Always nice to meet another Del Monaco fan. He is definitely my favorite Otello. Amazing breath control and makes Esultate seem easy. Great performances with Callas in Aida from Mexico and Norma in La Scala. Best last note of O sole mio in the business. Even when he is not in top form because of an illness for instance his great technique rescues him and je is still able to blast those high notes. Like in the filmed performance of Aida form Tokyo. In Celeste Aida you can see that he is not at his best, but he gives his all and the last note is still amazing. One of my favorites of his is the studio version of Giulietta son io from Giulietta e Romeo. He sings it with so much passion. For those who say that Mario can't do restraint is tell them to listen to his version of E la solita storia. At first you can't even believe it's really him. A pity he didn't sing more Wagner and really study the language.

    Here is a link to a previous thread on Del Monaco. Plenty of good videos. He even sang Ghost riders in the sky.

    Mario Del Monaco


    There is also a quite fun video of him singing in an Italian tv show.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WilesEIb5n8
    "First I sing loud. When I start to run out of breath I sing softer" Giuseppe Di Stefano on his Faust high c diminuendo

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    Senior Member aussiebushman's Avatar
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    Gentlemen!

    I have nothing against del Monaco and actually do enjoy many of his recordings. I appreciate he might be your favorite but surely anyone claiming him to be "best Otello"? would be stretching it a bit far. In that role, he is up against some serious competition.

    What about Ramon Vinay, frequently claimed to be the best Otello ever.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFrpm2oOBZ4 OR
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGJzQ-BtnCA
    Last edited by aussiebushman; Sep-07-2019 at 03:57.

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    I might just take Jon Vickers as "best Otello," at least on recordings. But I'm not prepared to fight about it. Chacun...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I might just take Jon Vickers as "best Otello," at least on recordings. But I'm not prepared to fight about it. Chacun...
    And also in a superb video performance from the Met, with Scotto and MacNeil. Vickers is so intense it's almost too much to bear.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by aussiebushman View Post
    Gentlemen!

    I have nothing against del Monaco and actually do enjoy many of his recordings. I appreciate he might be your favorite but surely anyone claiming him to be "best Otello"? would be stretching it a bit far. In that role, he is up against some serious competition.
    Well I'm always talking about my personal opinion and as I said he is my favorite Otello. At least I don't ever remember posting that he is the best. Everyone has their own taste and that's great. For some it might be Vickers, some really like Vinay, Del Monaco has his fans and Domingo is liked also.

    Like for me Callas defined so many roles that other singers just don't even come close. Then there are people who don't like her voice that much and that's okay. I think it's just so fantastic that in music, like in any other part of live there are so many different tastes. It's great to be able to discuss our differences and compare what we like about certain singers. And then when you find someone who likes Di Stefano as much as you do...
    "First I sing loud. When I start to run out of breath I sing softer" Giuseppe Di Stefano on his Faust high c diminuendo

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    If you want to hear the ruination of a decent recording, listen to the Schippers Carmen which was recorded by Culshaw because Decca wanted a Carmen to rival the Beecham recording. Of course it doesn't but it would have been very competitive had not del Monaco pushed himself in as Jose. Culshaw had asked for di Stefano but apparently del Monaco strode in to Maurice Rosengarten and insisted he got the part. The result is simply awful as del Monaco yells his way through everything in appalling French. A pity because with a decent Jose this would be extremely competitive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I might just take Jon Vickers as "best Otello," at least on recordings. But I'm not prepared to fight about it. Chacun...
    I've always thought that the greatest Otellos were some of the tenors who didn't get to sing the role, but should have done: Caruso or Corelli. There's nothing that can beat the imaginary performance in your head!

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    I've always thought that the greatest Otellos were some of the tenors who didn't get to sing the role, but should have done: Caruso or Corelli. There's nothing that can beat the imaginary performance in your head!

    N.
    I believe Caruso was ready to take on Otello when he died. His recordings of two excerpts, especially the vengeance duet with Titta Ruffo, leave no doubt about his qualifications:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ6iV4tj9_A

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT6rF6VPg_Q

    I also love Melchior's recordings. His vengeance duet with Herbert Janssen is terrific (though Janssen's voice lacked sufficient bite for an ideal Iago), and the selections he recorded in German equally powerful. The Met wouldn't cast him in the role, I suppose because it "belonged" to Martinelli. Too bad, as we might have had a recording of a broadcast from the '30s or '40s with the likes of Tibbett and Rethberg.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaVhk9tyIO4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXEX5A7F8mw
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-08-2019 at 17:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I believe Caruso was ready to take on Otello when he died.
    That's incredible. Most singers are unable to take on any role when they die.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brunumb View Post
    That's incredible. Most singers are unable to take on any role when they die.
    He was ready just in case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    I've always thought that the greatest Otellos were some of the tenors who didn't get to sing the role, but should have done: Caruso or Corelli. There's nothing that can beat the imaginary performance in your head!

    N.
    Aureliano Pertile have them all for breakfast .

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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Few myths surrounding opera singers grate my cheese more than the persistent nonsense written about Mario Del Monaco. According to many critics, he is an unsubtle shouter and bellower who blasts through otherwise beautiful music while displaying no artistry. That's perhaps the strongest version of the myth, but you can find it in CD reviews especially.
    .
    That's because what the reviewers hear is most evident in his studio recordings.

    Of course, this is completely false.
    Like a lot of criticisms of famous singers, it's certainly exaggerated, but it's not "completely false". There's nothing wrong with singing forte, and lots of famous singers don't sing much less than mezzo-forte very often. The problem with a lot of Del Monaco's loud singing is that's not very musical - it's monochromatic, with little effort to knit the musical line into coherent phrases. It's possible to sing forte and still be both sensitive and expressive. As I said, this characteristic of Del Monaco's singing is most evident in his studio recordings.

    It's also impossible to ignore some of his other musical failings. The one that especiallydrives me crazy is in the famous 1958 Met Otello, with VdlA and Warren. As Verdi wrote it, "Dio! Mi potevi scagliar" begins with a series of A-flats. Del Monaco sings a series of B-naturals. That passage is critical, and MdM's failure to even attempt what Verdi wrote ruins the performance for me.
    Last edited by wkasimer; Sep-09-2019 at 15:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I also love Melchior's recordings. His vengeance duet with Herbert Janssen is terrific (though Janssen's voice lacked sufficient bite for an ideal Iago), and the selections he recorded in German equally powerful.
    The German version of "Dio! Mi potevi scagliar" is one of my favorite Melchior recordings. This is about as close to perfection as any singer has ever approached.

    The Met wouldn't cast him in the role, I suppose because it "belonged" to Martinelli. Too bad, as we might have had a recording of a broadcast from the '30s or '40s with the likes of Tibbett and Rethberg.
    I think that Edward Johnson was afraid that if he allowed Melchior to sing Otello, Martinelli would insist on singing Tristan, which Martinelli did sing in 1939, but in Chicago.

    There's long been rumor of the existence of a live recording of Melchior as Otello from Covent Garden, with Beecham conducting. But it's only rumor....

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    I guess my phrasing isn't clear, but what I was specifically referring to was the idea that Del Monaco was just incapable of singing softly. That is completely false. He could do it, and actually did it a lot.

    I don't defend every record he ever made. Like any artist, he had off days, times he phoned it in, whatever. But he was a great artist. I own studio recordings of him in Tosca, Turandot, La fanciulla del west, La Gioconda, Manon Lescaut, and Il tabarro. Of those, Tabarro is okay (in the later half of his career), but I blame the conductor for some of that, La Gioconda is very good, and the rest are excellent or outstanding. Fanciulla in particular is full of sensitive phrasing, musicality, soft singing, etc.. I also own him as Otello in the DVD excerpted above, and he's simply sensational. Powerful, musical, intelligent, interpretive, thrilling, the works. (Capecchi and Carteri are outstanding as well, btw. It's a great film.) On average, I find him an great singer, musically and vocally.

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