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Thread: Exceptional Bit Parts

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    Default Exceptional Bit Parts

    I am a CM appreciator but not an opera fanatic and have strange but limited tastes (and intentional gaps in my knowledge of the repertory) so I don’t frequent this part of the forum often. I also have an ear for picking out exceptional readings of bit parts -- both vocal and instrumental -- that can fly under the radar.

    Most discussion here centers on macro-performances -- interpretations by conductors, orchestras, lead performers, stars, etc. And rightly so. But how about bit roles that are performed well enough to cause your ear to perk up and take the breath away? Some are retroactively understandable, like Pavarotti’s cameo as the Italian Tenor in Solti’s Rosenkavalier in the years before he became LUCIANO PAVAROTTI. But others sometimes pop up and surprise you.

    I had an old Columbia/Epic issue of a Prague Natl’ Theatre production of Vec Makropulos before the Mackerras/VSO/Soderstrom performance came out and remember listening to it once afterwards for comparison. The opening monologue by the aging law clerk on the library ladder -- idiomatic, lived in -- in the Czech recording suddenly blew me away (It was only three or four minutes, and I now can’t remember his name). That’s something you don’t just get by walking into the recording studio and singing it.

    How about a discussion of great performances of bit roles that really stand out?
    Last edited by MarkW; Jun-20-2020 at 03:11.

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    A couple of examples come to mind. Regina Resnik in Barber's Vanessa playing/singing the Old Baroness. She lifted the role to be an important one. The other one was Renato Capecchi playing Geronte di Ravoir in Puccini's Manon Lescaut in the 1980 telecast from the Met. In his hands, Geronte becomes a major role and he sings it beautifully and reveals both nuance, self-absorption, and cruelty.

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    Hermann Uhde's Donner in 1953 Krauss Das Rheingold - the greatest summoning of mists I've heard! Another one which I've only discovered recently is Windgassen's Erik in 1955 Knappertsbusch Dutchman. It's arguable though whether it is a bit part, probably not, but not a major one either, especially for a singer like Windgassen.
    Last edited by annaw; Jun-20-2020 at 23:51.

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    Also, Oralia Dominguez singing of Erda in Karajan's Rheingold. She perfectly embodies with the Weiche Wotan, Weiche! how important is her appearance and how "larger" than the gods she is.

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    Rosalind Elias playing the part of an old grandmother who was defending her grandson who wished to go into the war in "Andrea Chenier." She brought tears of joy to many eyes.

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    Ruth Bader Ginsburg in November 2016 was the Duchess of Krakenthorp in "La fille du regiment" in Washington National Opera.

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