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This is really an impossible situation. We are setting a superbly imaginative modern artist with a flawed instrument - a singer free to choose his own ideal tempi, supported by Verdi's full orchestra, and recorded in realistic modern sound - alongside one of the greatest baritones in recorded history who is acccompanied by a distant piano, singing into an acoustic horn, and constrained by the dimensions of a shellac platter to wrap up the proceedings in four minutes.

I'm forced, as often, to meditate glumly on the deceiving partialness of our access to the musical past. Whenever we marvel at the vocal virtuosity of singers from a century and more ago, we absolutely must remind ourselves that they were even better than we think they were. We really can't even guess how much more flexible and expressive Battistini's already commanding rendition would have been in the opera house, or on a recording as fine as that taken for granted by Gobbi. Gobbi's thoughtful pacing and expressive detail couldn't be matched by Battistini in the studio, who sounds loud and a bit hectic as he drowns out the piano, dares the recording equipment to capture his voice, and presses toward that four-minute finish line. Despite these adversities, he is a powerful vocal and musical presence.

The more I consider these things, the less inclined I am to vote. I admire both of these artists immensely. I think I should leave it at that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is really an impossible situation. We are setting a superbly imaginative modern artist with a flawed instrument - a singer free to choose his own ideal tempi, supported by Verdi's full orchestra, and recorded in realistic modern sound - alongside one of the greatest baritones in recorded history who is acccompanied by a distant piano, singing into an acoustic horn, and constrained by the dimensions of a shellac platter to wrap up the proceedings in four minutes.

I'm forced, as often, to meditate glumly on the deceiving partialness of our access to the musical past. Whenever we marvel at the vocal virtuosity of singers from a century and more ago, we absolutely must remind ourselves that they were even better than we think they were. We really can't even guess how much more flexible and expressive Battistini's already commanding rendition would have been in the opera house, or on a recording as fine as that taken for granted by Gobbi. Gobbi's thoughtful pacing and expressive detail couldn't be matched by Battistini in the studio, who sounds loud and a bit hectic as he drowns out the piano, dares the recording equipment to capture his voice, and presses toward that four-minute finish line. Despite these adversities, he is a powerful vocal and musical presence.

The more I consider these things, the less inclined I am to vote. I admire both of these artists immensely. I think I should leave it at that.
Whoever wins this contest your answer makes my initially flawed contest come out a success even without you giving a vote. (y) (y) (y) :):):)
 

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Woodduck is right of course. How can you compare these two performances? What if we were listening to Battistini in more modern sound with a full orchestra or Gobbi singing into an acoustic horn with piano? Impossible to say really. One thing we can say with certainty though is that improved recording techniques over the last fifty years or so have produced very few baritones who could rival either of them.

However, we are being asked to choose between these two particular performances and I am going for Gobbi, notwithstanding the magnificence of Battistini's voice, which cannot be denied even given the strictures of the recording process. Given the luxury of an orchestra and a vastly improved recording process, Gobbi, flawed instrument or not, is able to give us a performance of greater subtlety and variety.
 

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I voted for Battistini for two reasons, one, I always give preference to a performance captured within the larger work, and two, I like his sound more.

I am still sore over the snub to Warren. :cry:
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I voted for Battistini for two reasons, one, I always give preference to a performance captured within the larger work, and two, I like his sound more.

I am still sore over the snub to Warren. :cry:
I have personally greatly enjoyed hearing Warren over the years and especially in Macbeth, which I used to own. I would have paid to hear him sing tenor arias with High C walking home from The Old Met with friends as has been reported.
 

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warren.jpg

"Leonard Warren was so perfect a Verdi baritone that he likely had a voice similar to that to that of the great Varesi. While Warren had extraordinary success in La Gioconda, Andrea Chenier, and Pagliacci it was in the great Verdi parts that he was unequaled.

He is perhaps not as well known as he should be. This is partly because most of his performances were in New York , partly because he didn’t make a lot of commercial recordings, and likely most importantly recordings don’t capture the extraordinary sound his voice had in performance at the old Met.

His sound was rich, round, of enormous size, and lacked a hard edge which made it better suited for Verdi than Puccini’s Baron Scarpia a role he frequently sang. His voice was so big that it called to mind a church organ. But it was the extension of the upper part of the voice that made him the greatest Verdi baritone I ever heard. He could vocalize to a tenor’s high C. High Gs and A-flats came out of him effortlessly. While his acting was pedestrian his vocal portrayals were intense and gripping. His vocal stamina was as unmatched as his high notes. Verdi can wear baritones out before the opera is over, but not Warren who sounded as fresh at the final curtain as he did in the first scene."

Leonard Warren – The Great Verdi Baritone




The opera that killed its star – the eerie story of how Leonard Warren died on stage -


'To die! Tremendous moment!' sang Leonard Warren on stage in New York, moments before he collapsed and died…

On 4 March 1960 Leonard Warren stepped on the stage of the Met to sing the role of Don Carlo in La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) by Verdi.
The performance began without trouble, but things took a turn for the worst in Act III of the opera. Warren began singing the aria that begins with the words ‘Morir, tremenda cosa’, which means ‘to die, a momentous thing’.

Just a few moments later, he fell silent and collapsed. Those opening lines were the last words Warren would ever say – or sing. He died on stage.
Eye-witness accounts say that the singer went silent and fell face-forward on the floor.

In one of the most dramatic and tragic events to take place on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, Leonard Warren was stricken with a cerebral haemorrhage and died during the performance.

Because of his death, superstition has attached itself with the opera, with some even believing the opera is cursed. This curse is reportedly supposed to have kept Pavarotti away from ever performing La Forza del Destino.


In an odd coincidence, this curse also kept me from performing in the Castle Park School, Dalkey, Co Dublin production of La Forza del Destino - As a result of my intransigence, we did "Oklahoma" instead and my portrayal of Curly, despite the unshakeable Galway accent, is still, to this day, the performance against which all others are measured.
 

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How could any opera lover not think of Warren as the quintessential singer? For me, he personified opera. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
As the most vocal Warren detractor on TC I feel I should give my perspective. As Seattle mentioned I believe Warren's voice was artificially darkened. That is enough for me to avoid his recordings, but I also believe his popularity has been detrimental to baritone singing as a whole. I believe the generation of baritones that followed Warren tried to sound like Warren, Milnes being an example of a singer who did so to his detriment, taking baritone singing further and further from the Golden Age and the impeccable techniques used by masters like Battistini, De Luca, Ancona etc. Today we are left with Verdi baritones who sing in dark, covered tones instead of free, open ones. I think this is the Warren effect.

This is of course not Warren's fault. He was a great artist who's physiology allowed him to sing in a way that isn't ideal for others, but that worked beautifully for him.
 

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As the most vocal Warren detractor on TC I feel I should give my perspective. As Seattle mentioned I believe Warren's voice was artificially darkened. That is enough for me to avoid his recordings, but I also believe his popularity has been detrimental to baritone singing as a whole. I believe the generation of baritones that followed Warren tried to sound like Warren, Milnes being an example of a singer who did so to his detriment, taking baritone singing further and further from the Golden Age and the impeccable techniques used by masters like Battistini, De Luca, Ancona etc. Today we are left with Verdi baritones who sing in dark, covered tones instead of free, open ones. I think this is the Warren effect.

This is of course not Warren's fault. He was a great artist who's physiology allowed him to sing in a way that isn't ideal for others, but that worked beautifully for him.
I think this is well-stated, although I'm not sure that Warren's dark, burnt umber timbre was a choice. In any case it's distinctive, and we can like It or not. He was a major singer and artist (except when he's a bit dull, as in this recording. I'd like to hear the live performance.)
 

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I think this is well-stated, although I'm not sure that Warren's dark, burnt umber timbre was a choice. In any case it's distinctive, and we can like It or not. He was a major singer and artist (except when he's a bit dull, as in this recording. I'd like to hear the live performance.)
From what I read in "Leonard Warren: American Baritone" covering throughout his range to achieve the dark color was a conscious choice.
 

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This aria would make for a superb contest - Unless it's already been done - and even if it has, who cares, right? - Maybe @Seattleoperafan will add it to his "List of thankless tasks that need to be done by me because if they weren't, they would never get done". - :LOL:

In the article that mentioned this performance, reference was made to Warren's "forced smile" as he apparently was quite the perfectionist and rather unhappy with his own performance. Why that may be is a question better answered by others.


This is an interesting article - with video excerpts and commentary -


There's also a review of "Leonard Warren: American Baritone" which was appeared in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" - of all publications - which both does and doesn't make sense when you think about it...


"Phillips-Matz rounds out her portrait of the man with some of his more temperamental and less attractive qualities. Having worked very hard to train his own voice and refine his roles, he became an unsparing, self-critical perfectionist. He also required the same flawlessness from fellow artists and could be overbearing and intrusive (even to the orchestra) during rehearsals. There are several illustrations of behavior attendant to such peccadilloes that ranged from mild to outrageous. But the heart of this book is Warren’s virtuosity. The details and vignettes recounting Warren’s performances (his conquests and the occasional failure) at the Met, in world opera companies, and on concert tours will fascinate the opera aficionado."
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·

This aria would make for a superb contest - Unless it's already been done - and even if it has, who cares, right? - Maybe @Seattleoperafan will add it to his "List of thankless tasks that need to be done by me because if they weren't, they would never get done". - :LOL:

In the article that mentioned this performance, reference was made to Warren's "forced smile" as he apparently was quite the perfectionist and rather unhappy with his own performance. Why that may be is a question better answered by others.


This is an interesting article - with video excerpts and commentary -


There's also a review of "Leonard Warren: American Baritone" which was appeared in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" - of all publications - which both does and doesn't make sense when you think about it...


"Phillips-Matz rounds out her portrait of the man with some of his more temperamental and less attractive qualities. Having worked very hard to train his own voice and refine his roles, he became an unsparing, self-critical perfectionist. He also required the same flawlessness from fellow artists and could be overbearing and intrusive (even to the orchestra) during rehearsals. There are several illustrations of behavior attendant to such peccadilloes that ranged from mild to outrageous. But the heart of this book is Warren’s virtuosity. The details and vignettes recounting Warren’s performances (his conquests and the occasional failure) at the Met, in world opera companies, and on concert tours will fascinate the opera aficionado."
We did it last year and it was popular. He may have won. I don't remember. He was great. I have redone a number of contests with your tools you gave me this past week.
 
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