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Thread: The Met's Music Director, Vocal "Expert"

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Frankly I think it owes a lot to the imagination! Take the name away and I wonder whether your analysis would be the same!
    Maybe it is just my taste. I like old recordings.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Of course there is cherry picking. That's what these guys are about. Cherry picking to prove their point that the past is better than the present. It's a favourite topic of old timers. I know as I happen to be one!
    Me too! But they don't even need to cherry pick, because it's already been done for them. During the first quarter of the 20th century, mediocre singers didn't make recordings, and many of the less-than-stellar recordings have been lost to history. In 2019, virtually every performance of every singer is recorded and widely available via broadcast or telecast.

    And of course, there are many things that we don't know, and can't know about singers of the acoustic era. I listen to many such recordings, and it's impossible to tell anything about vocal size.

    That isn't to say that operatic vocal standards haven't declined over the past century. I think that they have done so, for any number of reasons - just to name a few, lack of exposure to and input from the composers of works being sung, the rise of the phonograph and the ubiquity of recordings, which has tended to urge all singers to sound alike, the ease of jet travel and the internationalization of opera, and the shortage of decent coaching.

    And it's worth noting that there is some music that modern singers perform far better than those of a century ago.

    I don't object when critics and other listeners praise the singers of the past - as long as that praise is not used as a club to condemn an entire generation of singers. There are a few active and recently active singers - not many, I will admit - who would be welcome in any so-called "Golden Age".

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  4. #33
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    Again, "cherry pick" one name of modern singer that you think is on level with singers of "Golden Age".

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IgorS View Post
    Again, "cherry pick" one name of modern singer that you think is on level with singers of "Golden Age".
    Sticking to singers both living and active, Peter Mattei.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IgorS View Post
    "Make a name for themselves" anonymously. Interesting idea )))
    They just like to think their voice is being heard.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    They just like to think their voice is being heard.
    It presumably makes them feel smug and superior.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    It presumably makes them feel smug and superior.
    As has been said: "Anyone can criticise. That's why there are so many critics!"

  11. #38
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As has been said: "Anyone can criticise. That's why there are so many critics!"
    Anyone can criticize, but some critics know what they're talking about and some don't. Before YOU criticize others for criticizing singers, you'd best say something - anything at all - that gives evidence of your understanding of singing, its technique and its history. Failing to do that, you're only describing yourself when you say

    You get them in every walk of life - people who have never made it themselves but want to make a name for themselves by criticising others who have made it. That's the only way they can get attention. Bit sad really.
    In their modest and flawed way, the "This is Opera" people have "made it" by offering something of interest and value. We have a right to take exception to what they say and to their somewhat amateurish presentation, but the sorts of personal accusations you level against them are presumptuous and mean. Have a little humility and pay attention, and you may actually learn something from their "cherry-picking." You may come to realize, as I and many others have known for years, that in an era when opera was more vital and essential to the culture there were many, many more delicious "cherries" to pick than there are now, and that our artists have a lot to learn from the generation of singers who worked with the likes of Verdi and Puccini, as well as those of later generations who grew up in a still vital tradition.

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    Originally Posted by IgorS
    With any amount of noise on old recordings you can clearly hear the difference between Destinn or Tetrazzini and Netrebko or Bartoli. And you can actually "cherry pick" any other modern start and the results of the comparision will be the same.
    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Frankly I think it owes a lot to the imagination! Take the name away and I wonder whether your analysis would be the same!
    I don't think that a singer's reputation explains why people are still listening in 2019: it comes down to competence.

    Maybe Tetrazzini's reputation (for instance) somehow lives on, but I'm not sure that even her name carries any currency today? It's not just a case of her being dead, but so are her audience, and her biographers and even the generation who reissued and reviewed her recordings on LP.

    All that's left are her records, often indifferently transferred via internet videos with next to no biographical info and hardly ever by the big record companies.

    And yet, people are still listening and enjoying her work after a century. Her competence still tells despite the technological limitations, despite being from a distant past. If anything the YouTube and Spotify formats prove her value even when robbed of context.

    I don't believe that fans are only enjoying the recordings because they are old: they enjoy the performances despite all the manifest reasons for listening to better-recorded but inferior performances which are readily available.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    I don't think that a singer's reputation explains why people are still listening in 2019: it comes down to competence.

    Maybe Tetrazzini's reputation (for instance) somehow lives on, but I'm not sure that even her name carries any currency today? It's not just a case of her being dead, but so are her audience, and her biographers and even the generation who reissued and reviewed her recordings on LP.

    All that's left are her records, often indifferently transferred via internet videos with next to no biographical info and hardly ever by the big record companies.

    And yet, people are still listening and enjoying her work after a century. Her competence still tells despite the technological limitations, despite being from a distant past. If anything the YouTube and Spotify formats prove her value even when robbed of context.

    I don't believe that fans are only enjoying the recordings because they are old: they enjoy the performances despite all the manifest reasons for listening to better-recorded but inferior performances which are readily available.
    As I say, given the recording quality, the enjoyment owes a lot to the imagination. Frankly the sound as recorded is so thin and reedy that one doesn't know what she actually sounded like. It's just that we cannot say for definite that these singers were better because on the basis of these recordings we simply don't know. I myself can't get any enjoyment from listening to this sort of thing when there are more modern recordings which actually let us hear all the singer's tones.
    Last edited by DavidA; Sep-24-2019 at 17:30.

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  16. #41
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As I say, given the recording quality, the enjoyment owes a lot to the imagination. Frankly the sound as recorded is so thin and reedy that one doesn't know what she actually sounded like. It's just that we cannot say for definite that these singers were better because on the ba well people sasis of these recordings we simply don't know. I myself can't get any enjoyment from listening to this sort of thing when there are more modern recordings which actually let us hear all the singer's tones.
    You're right that we can't hear the actual timbre of voices on acoustic recordings. In general, the higher the voice, the less true the reproduction, since it's mainly the high frequencies that were lost. Basses, baritones and deeper tenor voices lost some brilliance but otherwise recorded rather well, especially as acoustic technology improved; sopranos fared worst, and many singers with voices that were distinctive in life ended up sounding similar on recordings. However, we can learn to deduce some things from the audible evidence; listening to singers who recorded both before and after the advent of electric recording can teach us in what particular ways the sounds of voices were affected (Ponselle is a good example; we can hear her on 1918 acoustics, on radio broadcasts, and as recorded at home in the 1950s).

    Timbre aside, we can hear, even on early acoustic recordings, almost everything else about how people sang: the smoothness of the register shifts, the strength of the chest tones, the messa di voce, the vibrato, the trill, the flexibility, the accuracy of pitch, the articulation of legato and staccato, the style, musicality, phrasing, expression... Once we've learned HOW to listen to early recordings, there are real revelations in store for us.

  17. #42
    Member Jermaine's Avatar
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    Quite a silly video in my mark.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As I say, given the recording quality, the enjoyment owes a lot to the imagination. Frankly the sound as recorded is so thin and reedy that one doesn't know what she actually sounded like. It's just that we cannot say for definite that these singers were better because on the basis of these recordings we simply don't know. I myself can't get any enjoyment from listening to this sort of thing when there are more modern recordings which actually let us hear all the singer's tones.
    I'll can only agree up to a point.

    Acoustical recordings did have their many technical limitations - including but not limited to frequency response, the singer's proximity to the horn, the real problems with capturing instrument detail etc. So they are in a sense compromised. It also depends on the transfers.

    While acknowledging that, I anecdotally cannot recall a time when going from an acoustic recording to an electric recording the difference was revelatory...

    For instance, Melba's 1926 electrics are nice and clear but her timbre and phrasing are entirely recognisable back in 1921. Ditto for Schipa, Gigli, Muzio, Galli-Curci (her voice declined but that was medical), Ponselle, Bonci, Ruffo, Pertile etc.

    By extension, I can't think of an example where it turned out a singer was flattered by the acoustic recording process either.

    This all becomes more approximate the further back in time towards cylinders but many don't sound too bad to me and capture the essentials.

    I do believe that we hear enough that we can express a preference. As to being "definite" about preferences, I'm not sure even modern recordings allow that - they are by necessity just an approximation of what it sounded like in the hall.

    [I see that Woodduck submitted a similar response while I typed mine...apologies!]
    Last edited by Revitalized Classics; Sep-24-2019 at 18:21.

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  20. #44
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    I'll can only agree up to a point.

    Acoustical recordings did have their many technical limitations - including but not limited to frequency response, the singer's proximity to the horn, the real problems with capturing instrument detail etc. So they are in a sense compromised. It also depends on the transfers.

    While acknowledging that, I anecdotally cannot recall a time when going from an acoustic recording to an electric recording the difference was revelatory...

    For instance, Melba's 1926 electrics are nice and clear but her timbre and phrasing are entirely recognisable back in 1921. Ditto for Schipa, Gigli, Muzio, Galli-Curci (her voice declined but that was medical), Ponselle, Bonci, Ruffo, Pertile etc.

    By extension, I can't think of an example where it turned out a singer was flattered by the acoustic recording process either.

    This all becomes more approximate the further back in time towards cylinders but many don't sound too bad to me and capture the essentials.

    I do believe that we hear enough that we can express a preference. As to being "definite" about preferences, I'm not sure even modern recordings allow that - they are by necessity just an approximation of what it sounded like in the hall.

    [I see that Woodduck submitted a similar response while I typed mine...apologies!]
    Sorry but you are filling in an awful lot in your own imagination in these primitive recordings. It just isn't there. I'm not saying it wasn't there historically - it's just not there in the recording.
    Last edited by DavidA; Sep-24-2019 at 19:04.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Sorry but you are filling in an awful lot in your own imagination in these primitive recordings. It just isn't there. I'm not saying it wasn't there historically - it's just not there in the recording.
    In many cases enough remains that you can tell it was a marvellous performance. I didn't need the electrical version to hear that Schipa and Galli-Curci were wonderful, but it was nice to have the confirmation.

    Tito Schipa and Amelita Galli-Curci singing like angels in Lucia Di Lammermoor 1924 in front of a horn


    Tito Schipa and Amelita Galli-Curci still singing like angels in Lucia Di Lammermoor 1928 in front of a microphone


    Its possible to make it fairer - play a modern recording on old equipment and see if they sound half as good

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