Classical Music Forum banner

Conducting in Opera Recordings

1903 Views 66 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  MAS
I imagine most opera lovers have favorite recordings of their favorite operas determined in large part by the singers. How big a role does the conducting play for you? Are there recordings that are at least partly spoiled for you by the conducting despite an excellent cast? Conversely are there recordings that are elevated for you by exceptional conducting?
1 - 3 of 67 Posts
Good glory there are so many. Here are 5:
von Karajan
Those who I by-pass:
@nina foresti: Nézet-Séguin is a good conductor for symphonic music but should be prohibited from vocal coaching. According to him, the chest voice should not be engaged in the lower tones of the range for a soprano, because it is "the weak register." The man does not seem to know much about voice production.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin - "vocal coaching"
I totally agree. I read that article too. But he is an excellent maestro for the Met Operas.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
The relative importance of the conductor and the singers depends as much on what operas we're talking about as it does on who's conducting and singing. This is reflected in the way we refer to recordings. Recordings of Wagner's operas, in which the orchestra is sometimes more important than the singers to the musical and dramatic impact of the work, are commonly identified by their conductors. We speak of the "Furtwangler Tristan" rather than the "Suthaus/Flagstad Tristan," despite the stature of the singers, in recognition of the conductor's unique and powerful vision of the complex score. Similarly we speak of the Kempe Lohengrin, the Solti Ring, or various Knappertsbusch Parsifals.

Furtwangler's Tristan is important to me mainly because of him, although all the singers are at least good. Flagstad, the most celebrated of them, can be heard to generally better effect, both vocally and dramatically, in various live recordings from the years of her prime, where she also has the Tristan of Melchior and some other outstanding singers of the interwar period.

I could say much the same about several other Wagner performances (I've named a few above), but I can't think of an instance of Italian opera in which the conducting has been as important to me as the singing, not even in late Verdi or Puccini. Concomitantly, we tend to refer to recordings of Italian opera by their lead singers more often than by their conductors. Even though Victor de Sabata conducts Tosca brilliantly and contributes greatly to the classic status of his recording, we generally identify that recording as the "Callas Tosca," mentioning the other artists or conductor if we need to distinguish it from the "second Callas Tosca."
But what about conductors who don't give a whit about the singers voices being heard and just plow right on through? James Levine was an example of a thoughtful conductor to the singers. He always had their back. Pappano is another.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
1 - 3 of 67 Posts