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Thread: Verdi baritones

  1. #106
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I never said you couldn't be interested in both. I'm just saying I personally am not, and that informs my opinion on who I'd consider the "great Verdi baritones"--to me a "great Verdi baritone" would be one who I could hear in a variety of full Verdi operas. Someone who impresses not just in Eri tu but also in the ensemble where Renato discovers that the masked lady he escorts is Amelia, someone as mocking and buffo when talking to Monterone and heartbreaking in Povera Rigoletto as he furious and bitter in Cortigiani.
    Absolutely, very difficult to judge these antediluvian singers on single arias poorly recorded. They might have been wonderful but the fact is we simply don't know on the slight evidence given to make a full judgment unless, of course, we claim to be some sort of 'expert' who can apparently hear things other mortals can't.

  2. #107
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    If the condition is that they had to have made full recordings then that would exclude a ton of interesting portrayals - including all the individually recorded arias, abridgments, compilations up to the present day. Suit yourself but I think you are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    I'd argue this misses the point of how Verdi built his operas around key arias and ensembles - except maybe Otello and Falstaff.

    The arias and ensembles were intended as genuine highlights - they were also performed in concert and printed as sheet music like popular hits.

    The operas were sung by star performers who insisted on these features and exulted in them when it came to early recordings. It might be that we only have a few passages by Ruffo, Battistini, Amato etc in each role but these are often the parts that count most.

    Using your example, Il balen might be a small proportion of the opera in terms of notes/pages etc but it is the crux of his part - his main solo. Can you suggest examples where the baritone was only superb in the aria? Doesn't it stand if the baritone excels in the aria then much of the battle re the part has been won?
    They may have but just as I use a smart phone and not a 1920s phone and drive a car built post-2000 rather than a vintage 1920s car I also listen to recordings of complete operas. Verdi et al would have been the first to rejoice at the recordings available of their complete operas. So would the singers you mention if they were up to the mark. As I say, if you want to listen to these recordings that is fine but please don't let us have this feeling that it is somehow better to do so any more than it is better to drive a vintage car or use a landline rather than an iPhone

  3. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    They may have but just as I use a smart phone and not a 1920s phone and drive a car built post-2000 rather than a vintage 1920s car I also listen to recordings of complete operas. Verdi et al would have been the first to rejoice at the recordings available of their complete operas. So would the singers you mention if they were up to the mark. As I say, if you want to listen to these recordings that is fine but please don't let us have this feeling that it is somehow better to do so any more than it is better to drive a vintage car or use a landline rather than an iPhone
    I'm suggesting that the old records have value for what they do contain - nothing more.

    I never said the technology was as good, I never said that complete operas are bad: argue with someone else.

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  5. #109
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    You are saying that we are not all as good and sophisticated as you?
    No, I'm saying that most critics, particularly those who contribute to the mainstream media, are not as knowledgable about singing as critics of the past - people like Herman Klein, John Steane, and the still-writing Conrad Osborne.

    I'm not at all sure vocal standards have suffered as we can hear what people actually sound like in far clearer recordings than was possible 100 years ago.
    Quod erat demonstrandum. The reality, whether you wish to believe it or not, is that modern recordings are heavily edited, spliced, processed, and manipulated in ways that make voices, particularly small voices, sound attractive. They can even correct intonational issues. Such maneuvers are a little more limited with live recordings, but even those are pretty heavily edited. Recordings in the electrical era, and even more so in the acoustic era, could not be so manipulated. If I want to hear what a singer actually sounds like, I go to hear them live - and I've often been shocked at how recordings give a false impression, in both directions. Large voices are not flattered by modern recordings, and small voices often disappear and lose their character when heard live.

  6. #110
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Absolutely, very difficult to judge these antediluvian singers on single arias poorly recorded. They might have been wonderful but the fact is we simply don't know on the slight evidence given to make a full judgment unless, of course, we claim to be some sort of 'expert' who can apparently hear things other mortals can't.
    With all due respect, the reason that you aren't hearing them is because you're simply not trying.

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  8. #111
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    If the condition is that they had to have made full recordings then that would exclude a ton of interesting portrayals.
    Exactly. Were Ruffo, Granforte, and de Luca (just to name three) not great Verdi baritones because they didn't participate in complete recordings? And while he wasn't a Verdi baritone, I doubt that anyone who knows Boris Godunov would deny that Chaliapin was *the* great exponenent of the title role during recorded history - and all we have are snippets of him in the role.

  9. #112
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    I'm suggesting that the old records have value for what they do contain - nothing more.

    I never said the technology was as good, I never said that complete operas are bad: argue with someone else.
    Sorry but with respect, you are the one who is arguing with me. I'm not the one saying that everyone ought to listen to the ancient recordings.

  10. #113
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    No, I'm saying that most critics, particularly those who contribute to the mainstream media, are not as knowledgable about singing as critics of the past - people like Herman Klein, John Steane, and the still-writing Conrad Osborne.



    Quod erat demonstrandum. The reality, whether you wish to believe it or not, is that modern recordings are heavily edited, spliced, processed, and manipulated in ways that make voices, particularly small voices, sound attractive. They can even correct intonational issues. Such maneuvers are a little more limited with live recordings, but even those are pretty heavily edited. Recordings in the electrical era, and even more so in the acoustic era, could not be so manipulated. If I want to hear what a singer actually sounds like, I go to hear them live - and I've often been shocked at how recordings give a false impression, in both directions. Large voices are not flattered by modern recordings, and small voices often disappear and lose their character when heard live.
    Is that a point you can prove? For example, John Steane was actually a schoolmaster who taught English not music. He was a brilliant writer (I have some of his writings and appreciate them) but how did that qualify him better than anyone else, apart from the fact he was another who liked to delve into ancient recordings. Good luck to him I say but how does it better qualify him? Unless you like good old English amateurism. Steane was an enthusiast and I appreciate him but does that make him more of an expert than today's critics? I don't know.

    Of course, what you are saying is that we should give up on recordings altogether. Sorry but not the route for me. Of course recordings can be heavily edited but it is what is coming out of the speakers that interests me not what went on in the studio. When listening to a recording that's all that matters. Me and the speaker.

  11. #114
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wkasimer View Post
    Exactly. Were Ruffo, Granforte, and de Luca (just to name three) not great Verdi baritones because they didn't participate in complete recordings? And while he wasn't a Verdi baritone, I doubt that anyone who knows Boris Godunov would deny that Chaliapin was *the* great exponenent of the title role during recorded history - and all we have are snippets of him in the role.
    No-one is saying they weren't great. Just it is difficult to judge by ancient recordings and snippets. Even Chaliapin - all we can say is from what we can hear (and from what was said) he was a great exponent. You really cannot judge unless you hear the whole thing.
    With respect, I wish you guys would realise that, as someone has said, some of us are interested in hearing the opera not snippets in ancient sound with an annoying piping orchestral sound in the background. That was the best they could do in the past and if you guys get unlimited pleasure from listening to these then that's fine. But some of us agree with the somewhat ore cynical view of the 'Bluffer's Guide to Music' and do wonder at just how the sounds coming out really are the product of some vanished golden era. But please, if you guys get pleasure from hearing these old recordings, please go ahead. However, for those of us uninitiated in the golden art, please leave us with the meagre pickings of Tebaldi et al onwards in sound that is at least bearable.
    Last edited by DavidA; Oct-23-2019 at 17:19.

  12. #115
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Of course, what you are saying is that we should give up on recordings altogether. Sorry but not the route for me. Of course recordings can be heavily edited but it is what is coming out of the speakers that interests me not what went on in the studio. When listening to a recording that's all that matters. Me and the speaker.
    That's fine, as far as preferring recordings. But when talking about the quality of the singers themselves, it matters a great deal what went on in the studio. In fact, that's the only thing that matters. Someone who is recording on decent equipment but needs multiple takes spliced together, the orchestra turned way down to be heard, everything smoothed over is simply not a great singer. They are fodder for a good sound engineer.

  13. #116
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    That's fine, as far as preferring recordings. But when talking about the quality of the singers themselves, it matters a great deal what went on in the studio. In fact, that's the only thing that matters. Someone who is recording on decent equipment but needs multiple takes spliced together, the orchestra turned way down to be heard, everything smoothed over is simply not a great singer. They are fodder for a good sound engineer.
    Your problem is though you often cannot tell from the ancient recordings what the singer really sounded like in the flesh - you are filling in with your imagination - so the question remains anyway. In any case you are miming a judgment that all modern recordings are like this. Have you any proof? I know of Fred Smudge in the Bluffers Guide but that was a satire.
    Last edited by DavidA; Oct-23-2019 at 18:37.

  14. #117
    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    I did not say all are like that. You habitually strawman my arguments.

    Your problem is though you often cannot tell from the ancient recordings what the singer really sounded like in the flesh - you are filling in with your imagination - so the question remains anyway.
    In certain ways I'm filling in as far as personal listening goes. But for objective criteria I'm relying on the testimony of the time. I think Tetrazzini was a big voice because she gave an open air concert to tens of thousands of people and could be heard. I think Melba was a big voice because she could sing Aida, and because people said she could always be heard, in high or low register. I think Rethberg was a big voice because she was the most famous Aida of her day, and sang Sieglinde. Then I look at modern singers of the coloratura and lyric voice types and ask, can they do the same, without amplification? It's a resounding (or rather, not resounding) no.

  15. #118
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    I did not say all are like that. You habitually strawman my arguments.


    In certain ways I'm filling in as far as personal listening goes. But for objective criteria I'm relying on the testimony of the time. I think Tetrazzini was a big voice because she gave an open air concert to tens of thousands of people and could be heard. I think Melba was a big voice because she could sing Aida, and because people said she could always be heard, in high or low register. I think Rethberg was a big voice because she was the most famous Aida of her day, and sang Sieglinde. Then I look at modern singers of the coloratura and lyric voice types and ask, can they do the same, without amplification? It's a resounding (or rather, not resounding) no.
    Not at all. Your implication was pretty clear. So you think? You actually heard Melba? And Rethberg? I bet Nilsson could have sung to thousands of people and been heard but then her voice was one in a generation. I can assure you modern singers do sing without amplification - just go to the opera houses and hear them. You won't find them amplified unless you watch them in the cinema on HD but then that is a necessity for transmission. It's the problem we hear everywhere that 'old is good, new is bad'. Rinaldo wouldn't have even been a sub in the old days. I'm not saying there weren't great singers around in the old days - of course there were. And they were recorded because they were the best. The rest have past unnoticed. But to build a world where we cannot seem to enjoy modern opera performances because of what may or may not have happened in the past seems to me unfortunate.
    Last edited by DavidA; Oct-23-2019 at 19:01.

  16. #119
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    No-one is saying they weren't great. Just it is difficult to judge by ancient recordings and snippets.
    I didn't say that it's not sometimes difficult (although with baritones, it's actually not, since the baritone voice recorded quite well compared to, say, sopranos). But it's pretty obvious that you don't think that it's worth the effort. I think that it is.

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  18. #120
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Have you any proof? I know of Fred Smudge in the Bluffers Guide but that was a satire.
    I've had several experiences of hearing a singer on record and being sorely disappointed when I heard them live. I'm not going to mention names, but they are singers who made excellent recordings, and when I heard them live, their voices lacked color and in one case, was virtually inaudible. On the other hand, some voices are unimpressive on record, but impressive when heard in the flesh (the late Johan Botha was a good example).

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