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Thread: Great - Good - Okay

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Default Great - Good - Okay

    The idea of this thread is to compare things we like in order to understand them better. The format is to give three comparable examples, be they arias, aria recordings, operas, opera performances/recordings, singers, conductors etc., one of which you think is great, one you think is very good but not great, and one which you still like but is not as good as the other two, along with your reasons for each of your choices and their relative positions.

    I'll start. Been listening to this beautiful duet from Arabella lately. Three version:

    Okay:
    This isn't the best performance I've heard from either of these artists. Still, they have basically sound voices, and there's some nice phrasing. The blend of the signers is fine, but the slight unsteadiness prevents them from blending as well as they could. Schech is a little shrill on the highest note.

    Good:
    Both singers are in very good voice, and sound a bit steadier. Rothenberger is very clear in the middle, which is nice, but gets smaller as she goes up (I know she's doing pianissimo, but pianissimo should be rich, not thin). The steadiness means they blend better.

    Great:
    One of the greatest opera recordings, imho. Fuchs is strong but soft, and the floated pianissimo notes are creamy and soft but very clear. The voice even expands, somehow. It's incredible, and very few singers I've heard could sing soft high notes on this level. Kurz comes to mind. Schoffler is amazing as well, and the blend is perfection. Both voices are clear and they sound as if they are pre-existing elements: no straining, no effort, no artifice, just pure tone. It's wondrous. (Oh, and the BPO are great too.)

    Feel free to comment on my selections, leave your own, or give your own g-g-o listing on another topic.
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; May-15-2020 at 23:11.

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    Thanks Viva. This is timely for so many reasons, not least because I have been listening to Arabella quite a bit. I like the later two of your picks, but really don't like the first. Schech sounds off key to me and out of sorts, but then it is your choice for just 'ok'.

    I will post a comparison of my own soon.

    N.

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Point taken about the first one. I was listening to a bunch of versions, and this one sounded better than a couple others. But yeah, listening again on its own Schech is actually pretty bad there, while Metternich actually sounds better than I gave him credit for. So I won't defend that one!

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Was Schech ever really good? Her Wagner recordings for EMI (Senta and Venus) show her clearly over the hill, but how high was the hill?

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    The selection I've chosen is "Prendi l'anel ti dono" from Bellini's La Sonnambula.

    The three tracks happen to be a journey backwards in time. For me, the trajectory raises several intriguing changes.

    Okay: Juan Diego Florez & Cecilia Bartoli


    An accomplished modern recording by singers who specialise in that repertoire. Various claims about tuning and editions etc.

    Good: Ferruccio Tagliavini & Lina Pagliughi

    Starts 3:04

    What I would describe as a more affectionate reading, Tagliavini sings much more sweetly and both singers, at least as recorded, sound like they had richer and more colourful voices. The result sounds more beautiful to me...

    Great: Fernando de Lucia & Maria Galvany


    I think this recording, despite the adverse circumstances in terms of edits to fit on the disc and the sound quality, adds a whole other dimension to the scene. I find this the most elegantly phrased performance, and more than that the result sounds so spontaneous. It is extraordinary to me how their voices blend and their response to the text is idiosyncratic and more vivid. Love it.

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    This will be very difficult for me because I don't know how to put these you-tube videos onto this thread. I'll try my best.

    Aria: "Kuda, kuda" from Eugene Onegin

    GREAT
    1. Neil Shicoff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HavZY7vUMyY&t=2s
    Wears his suffering right up front. He is racked with pain and he is able to convey his heart-rending expressions of annihilation in a way that pulls you right into his abject misery.

    GOOD
    2. Fritz Wunderlich: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC-q39JGFkQ
    He is able to project his inner feelings that are completely minimal and diametrically the opposite of Shicoff's rendition, yet one is drawn in by his simple, plaintive sadness and his pure and clean voice by using his internal expressions without moving.

    OKAY
    3. Rolando Villazon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2_GBhFtM2U
    Passion is Villazon's middle name. He let's out all the stops in an entirely different way. His is more expressive of anger and frustration than of complete destruction of his being. He seems less connected to the devastation going on internally than the other two.
    Last edited by nina foresti; May-16-2020 at 03:02.

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    OK:



    I enjoy this performance overall, but I really don't like Milnes' singing here (or anywhere to be honest). His technical deficiencies are evident (others can speak more eloquently on that) and his vowels will never stop bothering me. I do love the way he hisses "Cassio" lol and his acting never fails to impress. I'm also very impressed by Giacomini's dramatic power, but he can't measure up to the next two tenors. Granted this is live and the others are not.

    Good:



    Not a Bjorling role, but these are two historically beautiful voices coming together, and that in itself is awesome to me!

    Great:



    Does anything even need to be said?? Is this in fact the greatest single vocal record ever made?
    Last edited by Bonetan; May-16-2020 at 03:05.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    That Bjorling-Merrill is considerably more than good! Jussi would never have sung Otello in the house, but as with his Calaf he's more exciting than most dramatic tenors on recordings. Caruso and Ruffo have more or less ideal voices, and it's a shame that Caruso died before he could take on the complete role.

    My regret is that during Lauritz Melchior's years at the Met he was never allowed to sing Otello and have it memorialized in a broadcast. This Otello voice is monumental (though Herbert Janssen is too soft-core as his Iago):

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

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    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    That Bjorling-Merrill is considerably more than good! Jussi would never have sung Otello in the house, but as with his Calaf he's more exciting than most dramatic tenors on recordings. Caruso and Ruffo have more or less ideal voices, and it's a shame that Caruso died before he could take on the complete role.

    My regret is that during Lauritz Melchior's years at the Met he was never allowed to sing Otello and have it memorialized in a broadcast. This Otello voice is monumental (though Herbert Janssen is too soft-core as his Iago):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaVhk9tyIO4
    You're right, but I needed an excuse to both that and the Caruso/Ruffo! please forgive me for misleading the people!!

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    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    That Bjorling-Merrill is considerably more than good! Jussi would never have sung Otello in the house, but as with his Calaf he's more exciting than most dramatic tenors on recordings. Caruso and Ruffo have more or less ideal voices, and it's a shame that Caruso died before he could take on the complete role.

    My regret is that during Lauritz Melchior's years at the Met he was never allowed to sing Otello and have it memorialized in a broadcast. This Otello voice is monumental (though Herbert Janssen is too soft-core as his Iago):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaVhk9tyIO4
    What I find utterly amazing about Melchior is how effortlessly he sings and on top of that has still strength to properly colour his voice. It feels as if he wasn't even able to produce anything less powerful, just opens his mouth and this comes out...
    Last edited by annaw; May-16-2020 at 13:38.

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    Here's mine. It actually comes from a comparison I undertook a couple of years ago when someone told me to look up and listen to my 'OK' example on YouTube as they thought it was one of the greatest performances of an aria they had heard. I managed to find a few recordings that I preferred and for my 'Good' and 'Great' examples I have two superb versions. Therefore this should perhaps be termed Dull - Great - Perfection.

    Here's my OK, 'The loveliest Ernani' and this rendition has a calm and relaxing beauty to it. The diction could be better and the coloratura cleaner, but it's what a lot of people look for in opera - a pretty tune, placidly sung:


    My Good example is a huge jump up in quality. This isn't just some beautiful melodies that Verdi wrote to soothe his audience from their cares, but an expression of a young girl's love as part of a stage drama (but everything about this version is better than the previous one):


    My great example comes from another diva who sang the aria on the stage of the Met (although not in the same theatre as the first example), this isn't as much of a jump in quality as that between my Ok and my Good, but this is technical perfection, whilst also being expressive (and bear in mind that singers at this time had to rush their interpretations so that they would fit on a single side of a 78). As Geraldine Farrar said, you only get a voice like this by 'arrangement with God':


    N.
    Last edited by The Conte; May-16-2020 at 13:50.

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonetan View Post
    OK:



    I enjoy this performance overall, but I really don't like Milnes' singing here (or anywhere to be honest). His technical deficiencies are evident (others can speak more eloquently on that) and his vowels will never stop bothering me. I do love the way he hisses "Cassio" lol and his acting never fails to impress. I'm also very impressed by Giacomini's dramatic power, but he can't measure up to the next two tenors. Granted this is live and the others are not.

    Good:



    Not a Bjorling role, but these are two historically beautiful voices coming together, and that in itself is awesome to me!

    Great:



    Does anything even need to be said?? Is this in fact the greatest single vocal record ever made?
    I think I would class these as good, brilliant and just as brilliant!
    I’m playing 3D chess in my head while the rest of you are playing Hungry Hippos!

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    Love all the contributions so far! Thanks! Taking a slightly different tack with this one, I'm comparing operas that depict Paris (the compositions not the recordings):

    OKAY:

    Louise. This opera is enjoyable for me, but not one of the real greats. I find the interaction of the chorus' and the lovers' "Libre!" to be stirring, and sums up a certain vision of Paris and life there very well. If this moment weren't tempered by other views, and by the fact that Charpentier seems to have written Julien's character as an example of what happens when "Libre!" turns into selfishness (after all, everything is just egoism, so why not live for pleasure?), it would have been too much. There's an effect later in the duet that isn't heard here where muted trumpets paint fireworks. I rather like it. This is one of the more stirring passages in the opera, however, and there's a bit too much Late Romantic soup music to make the opera fully successful.

    GOOD:

    La Rondine. In other circumstances, I might include this under great, especially since it contains the incredible concertato above. Much like Act II of Boheme, Act II of Rondine is the "out on the town intoxicated with Paris" act of the opera. It's a different Paris, though. The Paris of Boheme is unequal but still full of innocence (at least until the end of the opera). Here Paris is self-consciously shallow in its love affairs, instead of having short but sincere affairs of passion as in the Paris of Boheme. It's still a world of gaiety and elegance, but something has been lost. Puccini writes the music very different. The music of Boheme is spontaneous and reaches great intensity. Here things are more subdued. Even the emotional and musical highpoint of the act is a kind of planned event: let's toast to love! Only one of the lovers has any real innocence, the country boy Ruggiero.

    GREAT:

    Il tabarro. No contest here. Easily the greatest of Puccini's (or anyone's) Paris operas, Il tabarro has a very different take on the city than any other opera. Again, we've come down a step further from even La rondine's cynical emotionalism, to a place of true despair. The fantasy of Paris as the city of free love and art and music passes the characters by and even mocks them. From the song peddlar telling us of Mimi -- who dies alone, in this version -- while our couple bickers, to the pair of lovers who sing to each other on the bridge overlooking the rejected Michele's barge, this is a world where beautiful dreams seem like nightmares. My favorite moment, though, is the duet between Giorgetta and Luigi about Belleville. The fantasy version of Paris appears here, but it is not only entirely out of reach, but immediately preceded and followed by a very different vision, which I think comments on it: that of Frugola's house in the country, where she can wait for death. Rapturous nostalgia and fatalistic dreams of the future: maybe they amount to the same thing. Amazing opera.

    Honorable mention: Of course, Boheme is the obvious honorable mention, though Manon Lescaut, Manon, and a few others are pretty good too.
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; May-16-2020 at 17:57.

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