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Thread: Verdi baritones

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    "Although it depends on what he is singing I have to admit."

    This quote of mine should have told you that there are exceptions to my lack of enthusiasm for Taddei. One is the Giulini Don Giovanni, another is his early Cetra Barber. I can't remember his Scarpia and haven't heard his Falstaff. As for the Karajan Pagliacci, I find the whole thing a complete and utter bore. There's a nice sound from the orchestra, I suppose, but opera audiences should have their spines chilled and so Gobbi with Di Stefano or Corelli, Tibbett with Martinelli, Milnes with Domingo and Merill with Bjorling all float my boat. The Karajan Pagliacci is what refined people refer to as 'the epitome of style' (or something similar). Style?! It's an Italian melodrama in music for goodness sake! Give me Serafin, Panizza or Cellini any day!

    If Bergonzi fans want to hear the object of their desire in Pagliacci, then his early Cetra recording that finds him in unashamed, passionate voice would be my recommendation.

    N.
    A bore? Well no accounting for taste I suppose! I wonder sometimes if we are hearing the same performances but then life on TC would be dull if we all thought the same. Of course there are other ways of doing it but I actually find the absence of rug cutting enhances the drama. But each to his own. I find Taddei chills the spine sufficiently and Bergonzi is absolutely superb. I've also got the likes of Bjorling and Corelli so I do appreciate different styles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    A bore? Well no accounting for taste I suppose! I wonder sometimes if we are hearing the same performances but then life on TC would be dull if we all thought the same. Of course there are other ways of doing it but I actually find the absence of rug cutting enhances the drama. But each to his own. I find Taddei chills the spine sufficiently and Bergonzi is absolutely superb. I've also got the likes of Bjorling and Corelli so I do appreciate different styles.
    There is definitely room for different styles. I'm not sure in terms of execution if that recording is everything it is cracked up to be.

    In the case of Bergonzi, we know he could be a more forthright and exciting Canio since there was a previous studio recording and a live one with Cleva. I didn't find those especially vulgar performances given the genre (pace Del Monaco and Gigli)... and if I wanted a tasteful performance, Bjorling's was more beautifully sung in any case than any of Bergonzi's, including low-key-Karajan.

    Regarding Taddei, I think it is his only recording of Pagliacci so it is nice to have as a memento. By this point his voice could be rather unsteady (compared to the fifties). He could still sound good e.g. the Schippers Macbeth but I'm not always enamoured about his collaborations with Karajan.

    If we compare his Scarpia from 1962 with Karajan to 1957 with Serafin, I find Taddei more finicky and underlining dynamic contrasts in a way which is a bit mannered. The slow tempos can be a bit of a strain too which emphasises any vocal unsteadiness.

    The Pagliacci-as-blood-sport angle was already pretty well covered during this period by the Matacic recording from La Scala where Gobbi was terrific, larger than life. Taddei could have went in this direction, but this would probably not have fitted the Karajan concept.

    Conversely, there was already the recording by Molinari-Pradelli which showed the way for a more tasteful approach, at least as far as the baritone was concerned. MacNeil was in glorious voice, steadier and more beautiful than Taddei, Gobbi and even Merrill, as well as phrasing more subtly than the latter.

    With the Karajan set I'm not always convinced that we get the best-of-both worlds: rather we have exciting artists evidently tailoring their singing for the microphone.

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  4. #228
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    There is definitely room for different styles. I'm not sure in terms of execution if that recording is everything it is cracked up to be.

    In the case of Bergonzi, we know he could be a more forthright and exciting Canio since there was a previous studio recording and a live one with Cleva. I didn't find those especially vulgar performances given the genre (pace Del Monaco and Gigli)... and if I wanted a tasteful performance, Bjorling's was more beautifully sung in any case than any of Bergonzi's, including low-key-Karajan.

    Regarding Taddei, I think it is his only recording of Pagliacci so it is nice to have as a memento. By this point his voice could be rather unsteady (compared to the fifties). He could still sound good e.g. the Schippers Macbeth but I'm not always enamoured about his collaborations with Karajan.

    If we compare his Scarpia from 1962 with Karajan to 1957 with Serafin, I find Taddei more finicky and underlining dynamic contrasts in a way which is a bit mannered. The slow tempos can be a bit of a strain too which emphasises any vocal unsteadiness.

    The Pagliacci-as-blood-sport angle was already pretty well covered during this period by the Matacic recording from La Scala where Gobbi was terrific, larger than life. Taddei could have went in this direction, but this would probably not have fitted the Karajan concept.

    Conversely, there was already the recording by Molinari-Pradelli which showed the way for a more tasteful approach, at least as far as the baritone was concerned. MacNeil was in glorious voice, steadier and more beautiful than Taddei, Gobbi and even Merrill, as well as phrasing more subtly than the latter.

    With the Karajan set I'm not always convinced that we get the best-of-both worlds: rather we have exciting artists evidently tailoring their singing for the microphone.
    Funny I'm listening to the Karajan Pagliacci and are you sure we are talking about the same recording? Taddei unsteady? He sounds anything but to me on here. Yes the conventional way with Pagliacci was well covered by recordings like the Matacic which I have on disc and which is very good but Karajan brought something different to the conventional. Of course, if you are a traditionalist (you probably are) you won't like them but an awful lot of people to reassess the opera. After all, if one approach has been covered well why do it again the same way?
    As for your comment about 'singing for the microphone, isn't that what all singers do in studio recordings? It seems to me an odd (though well worn) cliche to fall back on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    As for your comment about 'singing for the microphone, isn't that what all singers do in studio recordings? It seems to me an odd (though well worn) cliche to fall back on.
    Singers sing in front of a microphone, not for it. Those who sing for it are those who fail to make us forget that it's there - i.e., that they're making a recording rather than giving a performance. We all know that the excitement of performing live, interacting with colleagues and an audience, is hard to duplicate in the studio, and at the extreme studio jobs can seem either unnatural (from the intrusive use of technology) or simply bland (from the artists' inability to be inspired under studio conditions). To a certain extent it may be necessary to "tone it down" a little when making a recording; Callas thought so, but of course even a toned-down Callas performance is still pretty remarkable. Ask most singers to tone it down and what's left won't be terribly interesting. I'd guess that most singers, faced with a microphone and the prospect of short, out-of-sequence takes, need to make a special effort to "get it up." It's not at all surprising that even very good studio recordings of opera tend not to generate the frisson of "you are there."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Funny I'm listening to the Karajan Pagliacci and are you sure we are talking about the same recording? Taddei unsteady? He sounds anything but to me on here. Yes the conventional way with Pagliacci was well covered by recordings like the Matacic which I have on disc and which is very good but Karajan brought something different to the conventional. Of course, if you are a traditionalist (you probably are) you won't like them but an awful lot of people to reassess the opera. After all, if one approach has been covered well why do it again the same way?
    As for your comment about 'singing for the microphone, isn't that what all singers do in studio recordings? It seems to me an odd (though well worn) cliche to fall back on.
    "Taddei unsteady?" Yes, both compared to his younger self where records exist and the aforementioned baritones. It never was a voice with the focus of Gobbi, Bechi, Stabile in any case as it was more bass-baritone: Dulcamara rather than Belcore.

    Compare MacNeil's steady voice:


    "Of course, if you are a traditionalist (you probably are) you won't like them but an awful lot of people to reassess the opera"

    Because taking four minutes longer over the course of an opera makes it unrecognisable? What case are you trying to make for this set?

    "After all, if one approach has been covered well why do it again the same way?"

    As mentioned, Bjorling/Cellini's refined approach predated Karajan by a decade and with a better cast. Regarding baritones, Molinari-Pradelli and MacNeil showed a bel canto approach in modern times. Callas and De Los Angeles pointed that way too, as did Panerai, Merrill and Monti in the previous decade.

    Did Karajan actually set any new standards? I'd suggest yes orchestrally and with the choruses but not necessarily regarding the protagonists.

    Given Bergonzi sounded better before, given Taddei does not sound his best, given that the results can sound mannered with results approaching crooning, Karajan's approach was an interesting experiment but at the cost of some vibrancy.

    "As for your comment about 'singing for the microphone, isn't that what all singers do in studio recordings? It seems to me an odd (though well worn) cliche to fall back on".


    Should I, as the listener, be aware that the recording is a jigsaw of little pieces, recorded out of sequence with each little moment micromanaged within an inch of its life? No. But I am here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Singers sing in front of a microphone, not for it. Those who sing for it are those who fail to make us forget that it's there - i.e., that they're making a recording rather than giving a performance. We all know that the excitement of performing live, interacting with colleagues and an audience, is hard to duplicate in the studio, and at the extreme studio jobs can seem either unnatural (from the intrusive use of technology) or simply bland (from the artists' inability to be inspired under studio conditions). To a certain extent it may be necessary to "tone it down" a little when making a recording; Callas thought so, but of course even a toned-down Callas performance is still pretty remarkable. Ask most singers to tone it down and what's left won't be terribly interesting. I'd guess that most singers, faced with a microphone and the prospect of short, out-of-sequence takes, need to make a special effort to "get it up." It's not at all surprising that even very good studio recordings of opera tend not to generate the frisson of "you are there."
    Gobbi wrote about the horrible trepidation of the recording light going on during recording sessions.

    He and Callas were extraordinarily good in the studio: perhaps they had exceptional concentration...

    One of Gobbi's own recordings he did like was the Nabucco, appropriately enough for this thread


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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    There is definitely room for different styles. I'm not sure in terms of execution if that recording is everything it is cracked up to be.

    In the case of Bergonzi, we know he could be a more forthright and exciting Canio since there was a previous studio recording and a live one with Cleva. I didn't find those especially vulgar performances given the genre (pace Del Monaco and Gigli)... and if I wanted a tasteful performance, Bjorling's was more beautifully sung in any case than any of Bergonzi's, including low-key-Karajan.

    Regarding Taddei, I think it is his only recording of Pagliacci so it is nice to have as a memento. By this point his voice could be rather unsteady (compared to the fifties). He could still sound good e.g. the Schippers Macbeth but I'm not always enamoured about his collaborations with Karajan.

    If we compare his Scarpia from 1962 with Karajan to 1957 with Serafin, I find Taddei more finicky and underlining dynamic contrasts in a way which is a bit mannered. The slow tempos can be a bit of a strain too which emphasises any vocal unsteadiness.

    The Pagliacci-as-blood-sport angle was already pretty well covered during this period by the Matacic recording from La Scala where Gobbi was terrific, larger than life. Taddei could have went in this direction, but this would probably not have fitted the Karajan concept.

    Conversely, there was already the recording by Molinari-Pradelli which showed the way for a more tasteful approach, at least as far as the baritone was concerned. MacNeil was in glorious voice, steadier and more beautiful than Taddei, Gobbi and even Merrill, as well as phrasing more subtly than the latter.

    With the Karajan set I'm not always convinced that we get the best-of-both worlds: rather we have exciting artists evidently tailoring their singing for the microphone.
    I 100% agree with your observations here and your last sentence is very much how I feel about the disappointing Karajan Cav/Pag. I find a lot of my dislike for that recording is in Karajan's disjointed conducting. As a friend of mine was saying about Domingo, when you record a huge amount and variety of opera, it's inevitable that some of the stuff you do will be shite.

    N.

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    Yes, indeed, HERE'S one of our best "guys" from the older days of great recordings. Thanks, schigolch, for remembering the specific legacy of Heinrich Schlusnus.

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    Also, thank to those present-day posts, from David & the other "erudite" posters, and you guys can take-OUT the parentheses (of "erudite"), anytime. I might even mention some of the Golden Age baritones - Amato, Sammarco, Montesanto, and others. I might even mention one of the best articles, 'bout singers/baritones. It's from the old High Fidelity magazine, of Oct. 1967 - "A Plain Case for The Golden Age; Why they don't make singers like they used to.", by Conrad L. Osborne. In other words, maybe we might KNOW that Bechi and other favorites, might not BE the equal of some of the best of those, who recorded in acoustic (recording) days, and somewhat-beyond, in certain capacities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    Gobbi wrote about the horrible trepidation of the recording light going on during recording sessions.

    He and Callas were extraordinarily good in the studio: perhaps they had exceptional concentration...

    One of Gobbi's own recordings he did like was the Nabucco, appropriately enough for this thread





    What's not to like .
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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  16. #236
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    "Taddei unsteady?" Yes, both compared to his younger self where records exist and the aforementioned baritones. It never was a voice with the focus of Gobbi, Bechi, Stabile in any case as it was more bass-baritone: Dulcamara rather than Belcore.

    Compare MacNeil's steady voice:


    "Of course, if you are a traditionalist (you probably are) you won't like them but an awful lot of people to reassess the opera"

    Because taking four minutes longer over the course of an opera makes it unrecognisable? What case are you trying to make for this set?

    "After all, if one approach has been covered well why do it again the same way?"

    As mentioned, Bjorling/Cellini's refined approach predated Karajan by a decade and with a better cast. Regarding baritones, Molinari-Pradelli and MacNeil showed a bel canto approach in modern times. Callas and De Los Angeles pointed that way too, as did Panerai, Merrill and Monti in the previous decade.

    Did Karajan actually set any new standards? I'd suggest yes orchestrally and with the choruses but not necessarily regarding the protagonists.

    Given Bergonzi sounded better before, given Taddei does not sound his best, given that the results can sound mannered with results approaching crooning, Karajan's approach was an interesting experiment but at the cost of some vibrancy.

    "As for your comment about 'singing for the microphone, isn't that what all singers do in studio recordings? It seems to me an odd (though well worn) cliche to fall back on".


    Should I, as the listener, be aware that the recording is a jigsaw of little pieces, recorded out of sequence with each little moment micromanaged within an inch of its life? No. But I am here.
    I remember the Italians themselves saying they viewed Cav and Pag as the pre- and post- Karajan eras, such an impact did his conducting of them make. But no doubt you are better qualified to assess their own operas than they are? He didn't of course make the operas unrecognisable but he actually made them sound better than before to many people. 'Karajan’s reading fairly shimmers with a sense of style' says one reviewer reflecting the impact the recordings made. I listened to Pag last night after quite some years and your (and other) criticisms seem incredible. Someone described it as 'dull'. Was he listening to the same opera? Or so used to del Monaco bawling his head off that anything less than a bill for Canio is unacceptable. Taddei unsteady? Not on your life on this recording!
    I also have the Bjorling / Cellini and would not accept the cast is better. But a good performance well conducted with Bjorlong and de los Angeles cast against type and Warren singing the final line. As for Molinari-Pradelli I have always thought of him as a laid back conductor relaxed in tempi and consistently lazy in attack. Bit of a nondescript. MacNeill is magnificent voice bwt if you can stand del Monaco's blaring foghorn.
    Your statement about recording makes me smile as of course the earlier recordings were made up of a jigsaw of little pieces, recorded out of sequence. By the time Karajan recorded his longer takes were in use. I wonder how much our own prejudices get in the way of how we hear things?
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-01-2020 at 08:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    I 100% agree with your observations here and your last sentence is very much how I feel about the disappointing Karajan Cav/Pag. I find a lot of my dislike for that recording is in Karajan's disjointed conducting. As a friend of mine was saying about Domingo, when you record a huge amount and variety of opera, it's inevitable that some of the stuff you do will be shite.

    N.

    Are you really listening to the same recording I listened to last night? 'Disappointing' is the last word I would have applied to it. 'One of Karajan's greatest opera recordings' says the Metropolitan Guide. Disjointed conducting? Really? I would have thought the opposite listening last night. But no accounting for taste I suppose!
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-01-2020 at 08:13.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 89Koechel View Post
    Also, thank to those present-day posts, from David & the other "erudite" posters, and you guys can take-OUT the parentheses (of "erudite"), anytime. I might even mention some of the Golden Age baritones - Amato, Sammarco, Montesanto, and others. I might even mention one of the best articles, 'bout singers/baritones. It's from the old High Fidelity magazine, of Oct. 1967 - "A Plain Case for The Golden Age; Why they don't make singers like they used to.", by Conrad L. Osborne. In other words, maybe we might KNOW that Bechi and other favorites, might not BE the equal of some of the best of those, who recorded in acoustic (recording) days, and somewhat-beyond, in certain capacities.
    You crack me up! Here's me over 70 years old and talking about a recording from 1965 which is now 55 years old and it's looked upon as 'present-day posts' and the implication is I'm looked upon as some reactionary modern phenomenon! Thanks! Nice to feel ones youth renewed!

    Happy new Year!
    Last edited by DavidA; Jan-01-2020 at 09:27.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Are you really listening to the same recording I listened to last night? 'Disappointing' is the last word I would have applied to it. 'One of Karajan's greatest opera recordings' says the Metropolitan Guide. Disjointed conducting? Really? I would have thought the opposite listening last night. But no accounting for taste I suppose!
    Whilst I wouldn't put it in my list of great Karajan recordings, even if it were one of his greatest recordings, that says nothing about how it compares with the many other superlative versions. Even if you restrict it to recordings of Cav/Pag as a double bill, there are quite a few other options that both for the conducting and the cast are far superior and that would seem to be a common view here.

    By the way, I spent six years singing in Cav (chorus) in Northern Italy touring round various places from the ridiculous to the sublime. We performed in hospitals to the bed bound and even sang in an open air chapel in the mountains. Nobody once mentioned Karajan, it was known as Mascagni's Cavalleria.

    N.

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  21. #240
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I remember the Italians themselves saying they viewed Cav and Pag as the pre- and post- Karajan eras, such an impact did his conducting of them make. But no doubt you are better qualified to assess their own operas than they are? He didn't of course make the operas unrecognisable but he actually made them sound better than before to many people. 'Karajan’s reading fairly shimmers with a sense of style' says one reviewer reflecting the impact the recordings made. I listened to Pag last night after quite some years and your (and other) criticisms seem incredible. Someone described it as 'dull'. Was he listening to the same opera? Or so used to del Monaco bawling his head off that anything less than a bill for Canio is unacceptable. Taddei unsteady? Not on your life on this recording!
    I also have the Bjorling / Cellini and would not accept the cast is better. But a good performance well conducted with Bjorlong and de los Angeles cast against type and Warren singing the final line. As for Molinari-Pradelli I have always thought of him as a laid back conductor relaxed in tempi and consistently lazy in attack. Bit of a nondescript. MacNeill is magnificent voice bwt if you can stand del Monaco's blaring foghorn.
    Your statement about recording makes me smile as of course the earlier recordings were made up of a jigsaw of little pieces, recorded out of sequence. By the time Karajan recorded his longer takes were in use. I wonder how much our own prejudices get in the way of how we hear things?
    "I remember the Italians themselves saying they viewed Cav and Pag as the pre- and post- Karajan eras, such an impact did his conducting of them make. But no doubt you are better qualified to assess their own operas than they are?"

    I'm afraid that didn't happen.
    There were NO performances of Pagliacci by Karajan at La Scala.
    He did not conduct the combo and Pagliacci is entirely the product of the studio.
    Bergonzi, Carlyle, Taddei did not appear in either opera during those runs.
    Whatever your Italians were clapping did not make it into the studio.

    "Or so used to del Monaco bawling his head off that anything less than a bill for Canio is unacceptable"


    What has actually been said, as opposed to what you've conveniently imagined, is preferring Bergonzi's own recordings in actual performance - as with the staged Cleva recording - or the RAI broadcast made in one take. Bergonzi sounds subdued compared to his own best standards.

    By the time Karajan recorded his longer takes were in use. I wonder how much our own prejudices get in the way of how we hear things?
    In a time of multitrack recording (1965), with a cast, orchestra and chorus who, as I've established, had not worked together in a stage production of Pagliacci you don't magic 'long takes ' out of thin air.

    They spent days in the studio to get it right and the result is surprisingly precise given the circumstances but not spontaneous-sounding.
    Last edited by Revitalized Classics; Jan-01-2020 at 14:49.

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