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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Has anyone else read this book? It's interesting, if a little too technical for me. There are a few short chapters on tenors of the early years of recording, of which the Tamagno chapter is the most interesting. Most of the book focuses on mid twentieth century tenors, with Corelli's radio interviews providing a jumping off point. Here's the blurb from the publisher's website, in case anyone is interested:

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 1 by Stefan Zucker, 6" X 9" X 384 pp., with nearly 200 lithographs and photographs $27.95

http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/product_info.php?cPath=5&products_id=1543

Franco Corelli and Stefan Zucker, in edited transcripts of thirteen years of conversations on the radio, in their theater presentations and master classes and in private, discuss changes in tenor singing:

Beginning in the 1820s Donzelli and Duprez sang with a massive darkened tone at the expense of vocal inflections and agility. Their coarser, more obvious but more exciting style won out over the more nuanced singing that had prevailed until then.

Stefan critiques Donzelli, Rubini, Nourrit, Duprez, de Reszke, Tamagno and De Lucia, and together Franco and Stefan discuss Caruso, Pertile, Martinelli,Schipa, Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Björling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Tucker, Del Monaco, Di Stefano, Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras.

A central question for tenors is whether or not to "cover" their tones (explained in the book). Verdi extensively coached Tamagno who didn't cover, but Verdi tenors from Caruso through Domingo do, resulting in a very different sound.

Caruso and those who followed him mostly sang at full volume. Compared to his predecessors, such as de Reszke, Tamagno and De Lucia, Caruso had less musical nuance, variety of dynamics and rubato; in short he had less musical imagination. He also had less control over dynamics.

Franco describes how, using Arturo Melocchi's controversial lowered-larynx technique, he and Del Monaco revolted against sweet tenor singing in favor of older-sounding tones and a more "virile" approach.

Franco explains that he tried to combine Del Monaco's fortissimo, Lauri-Volpi's high notes, Pertile's passion, Fleta's diminuendo and Gigli's caress. He describes using more portamento than his predecessors, his copying of some of Pertile's interpretations and his attempt to emulate Schipa's Werther.

Stefan describes Franco's music-driven interpretations and Di Stefano's word driven ones, the history of vibrato, Gigli's two kinds of chiaroscuro, chiaroscuro of dynamics and chiaroscuro of timbre, and compares eighteen Radamès recordings with Pertile, Martinelli, Gigli, Tucker, Del Monaco, Björling, Di Stefano, Corelli, Bergonzi, Vickers, Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti.

Robert Tuggle, Director of The Metropolitan Opera Archives, contributes a chapter on Björling to the appendices.

The volumes are printed on top-quality paper and feature more than 350 rare lithographs and photographs, the majority provided by the Met Archives.

This is not a biography, nor is it a book of anecdotes. Instead it explains the evolution of tenor singing from 1820 to Domingo.

Here's an example of what Franco has to say:

"During the first years of Del Monaco's career Gigli's influence undoubtedly was very strong. After all he was the dominant singer on the Italian stage. His voice was beautiful in strong passages, in mezza voce and in falsettone. By 1940 when he sang loud his sound was more masculine than when he began, but he still had his falsettone, which was unique to him--it approached the sound of a nightingale. With him in the field it was terribly difficult for another tenor to come forward.

"Del Monaco undertook heavy repertory, excepting a Butterfly and
a Bohème, yet he still was up against a Gigli old but in voice. But Del Monaco quickly came to make a more dramatic sound, and a dramatic sound perhaps was the one thing Gigli fundamentally lacked. Gigli, dominant though he was, had to cede the dramatic repertory to Del Monaco, because Del Monaco introduced a more dramatic manner."

Here is a PDF file of the first 14 pp. from a chapter.
http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/images2/++CB_bySZ_158-171.pdf

Here is a PDF file of the Table of Contents.
http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/images2/++CB_bySZ_Table_of_contents.pdf

Here is a PDF file of the List of Lithographs and Photographs.
http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/images2/++CB_bySZ_lithographs_photographs.pdf

Many photos in the book are gorgeous. From the Jean de Reszke chapter here are history's three great tenor heartthrobs, Mario, de Reszke and Corelli.
http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/images2/++CB_bySZ_69-71.pdf

Here is a PDF file of Stefan's biography.
http://www.belcantosociety.org/store/images2/++CB_bySZ_Stefan_Zucker_Color.pdf
 

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Actually it is quite a fine treatise on the different fachs of tenors and how damaging some can be when they go out of it and how useful proper training can be.
Perhaps the author toots his own horn a wee bit too much in ads for his coming volumes and of his interviews on DVD but it serves a purpose and should be read by anyone interested in opinions of famous tenors' voices.
As an aside, the pictures, and there are many of them, are quite lovely and the paper is of really fine quality.
 

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Attention, Americans and insomniacs alike: the book is being featured on a radio station, WMNR, on Tesday night, 2 am UK time.
There's going to be a live Q&A with the author, discussion of the book and the tenors featured in it.
The cousins across the pond take note. ;D
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Actually, I should declare an interest. I owe Stefan Zucker a massive favour because he let me have a copy of the photo of Victor Maurel clad only in a fig leaf, which was printed in Opera Fanatic magazine in the 90s. Enclosed with the magazine was the excellent pamphlet 'The Origins of Modern Tenor Singing' and a review copy of the new book, which is how I happened to possess a it even though it's not yet available on Amazon.co.uk. The Maurel photo was a revelation: it's not the same one published in 19th Century Music and the Cambridge Opera Journal, in which he's standing on a plinth and clad in a fig leaf which he might conceivably have been wearing at the time. The Opera Fanatic picture has him posed differently, and the fig leaf is almost certainly painted on to the photo, raising the intriguing possibility that there's an even nakeder print out there somewhere. He's standing legs akimbo, a discarded bath towel at his feet, wearing an intense expression and thumping his chest in the manner of Tarzan. (No, I don't know why either, but it's quite amusing.) It's all part of research on Maurel that I was doing, ready for a writing project which may never see the light of day, but Stefan has kindly given permission for me to reproduce the photo in a blog post, which I mean to do as soon as I've written the accompanying text. (This is trickier than it sounds, as I've no idea what the original context of the naked portraits was. They don't look that much like other nineteenth century male nudes I've seen, whether pornographic, 'artistic', or somewhere in between. I'm also not sure how widely circulated they were at the time.)

Anyway, I felt somewhat guilty accepting a review copy of the book when I'm in no position to actually review it, so I hoped to open up a discussion here instead. Most of the singers covered are of the period 1920 to the present- after my time.There's also the issue of technical knowledge (specifically, my lack thereof) which could perhaps be better explained to beginners in the book, though I expect such things as the difference between open, closed and covered tones can only be demonstrated in person or illustrated with audio clips, rather than described in words. I'm also uneasy about the (simplistic?) thesis of an ongoing tension in tenor singing summed up in the chapter title 'Nuance versus massive darkened tone'. Once we get into the recorded era, it's perfectly fine to file de Lucia, Tamagno, Schipa and Gigli (to some extent) under 'nuance' and Caruso and his coarser mid-century successors (Corelli, del Monaco) under 'massive darkened tone'- but can we really put Gilbert Louis Duprez in the latter category, given that we have never heard him, and that the purpose of the taxonomy is divide the enlightened 'nuanced' singers from the forces of (massive) darkness? Duprez supposedly resembled his pupil Escalais, who had the modern features of a heavily covered tone (on lower notes anyway) and explosive high notes, but neither he nor Duprez is convincingly portrayed as the ancestor of Del Monaco and Corelli in the sense of embodying a crude unmusical belting style, in spite of the fact that Duprez is rightly famed for inaugurating the decibel-boosting tenor arms race which eventually ended in the disaster we currently behold (the latter phrase being obviously my opinion, not Stefan's). There's also the strange thing that the story virtually begins with Nourrit versus Duprez, after which French tenors are conspicuous by their absence: there's nothing wrong with a book about Italian tenor singing, but the subject matter needs to be signposted from the beginning. I get the impression that the book may have been conceived as a wider project (properly incorporating French, German, Russian etc singers) but limitations of time, space and (dare I say it) possibly even knowledge of different national styles precluded it. Leaving aside the awkwardly grafted on and insufficiently fleshed out chapters about de Reszke, de Lucia and their predecessors (Tamagno excepted, whose records are well analysed) the book makes an excellent study of the singing 'revolution' of Corelli and his successors, with their roots in Caruso and early verismo singers and their influence on their successors who are familiar to all of us today. There is a fascinating yet somewhat uneasy ambivalence towards the author's great friend Corelli: on the one hand hero worship of Corelli the icon and respect which may well be due to Corelli as singer, thinker and human being, and on the other hand longing for the lost refinement and expressiveness of Tamagno and de Lucia. They say that all writing is autobiography, and that's truer of Stefan than of most writers: he's part visionary, determined to revive the lost art of Rubini even if he has to do it himself, and part hustler trying to sell books off the back of his friendships with Corelli, Schipa and others- not that wanting to sell a book you've self-funded to the tune of $60,000 is such a bad thing. The writing itself is enviably eloquent, and even the parts which seemed impenetrable at first reading have come back to me in an 'aha!' moment when I happened to hear something that seemed to illustrate a point Stefan was making. In explaining my own slight involvement and reasons why I can't write a review, I seem to have written the best part of a review! Anyway, thank you to everybody who has posted on this thread for your thoughts and observations. It's been very useful in clarifying my own thoughts on the book which, along with other threads on this forum, and although I stumbled across the book and its author by complete accident when pursuing information on Maurel, has certainly helped my nascent understanding of vocal technique.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Some more reader reviews to counter mine, which is apparently totally unfavourable and guaranteed to have a chilling effect on future sales. (You're welcome.)

Moyses Szklo on Mon, 01/19/2015 - 17:45.

Stefan Zucker's book, Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing , Vol. 1 , published by Bel Canto Society, is obligatory reading for opera fans. The pictures and lithographs alone would be worth the price of the book (which is not expensive). More important is the in-depth discussion of the great 20th century tenors, which includes such artists as Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Björling, Del Monaco and many others. Zucker's scholarship is tremendous and even music lovers who are not conversant with the technical aspects of the musical language have a lot to learn here. In addition to Zucker's critical comments about tenors, the book also discusses the use of vibrato and offers a comparison of eighteen tenors in the role of Radamès.

Corelli is quoted throughout the book. Zucker's interviews with Corelli serve as a sort of leitmotif throughout most of the book. However, as great an admirer as Zucker is of this great tenor, his critical acumen about Corelli and the other tenors he discusses does not fail. That Zucker is a real scholar and open to judgment different from his is supported by the publication of an appendix in which Dr. G.P. Nardoianni offers a spirited dissenting opinion about Zucker's critique of Lauri-Volpi.

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing is an extraordinarily informative book that combines elegance of style and in-depth analyses in a language that is accessible to most opera lovers. Highly recommended. I am looking forward to other books in this series.

Moyses Szklo
Baltimore, MD

Submitted by Carol Klein on Sun, 02/01/2015 - 10:18.

Most books about opera singers list triumphs and sprinkle in some reviews and anecdotes. This one instead shows us how singing has changed in the last 200 years and which singers caused the changes.

The book helps me understand what I'm watching and listening to.

The 200 or so photos are stunning and beautifully reproduced. Not only are Rubini, Nourrit and Duprez pictured but so are Campanini, Gayarre, Stagno...

I'm going to order a copy to give as a gift.

Carol Klein
Chicago, IL

Submitted by V Sulkowski on Wed, 01/14/2015 - 14:25.

Fascinating and compelling. My introduction to opera began on dad's knee in the mid-1950s, and I have been an avid, if "pedestrian" fan since then. I inherited a substantial collection of vinyl opera records from my father including many very old 78 RPM discs in fine condition and enjoy them very much. My appreciation of the performances recorded on them is much enhanced by all that is shared in this book. It is one thing to know what you like and entirely another to understand why it is so appealing. Many questions are answered here. May I say: I always found Tamagno's performances to be moving but never before understood what he was doing that produced the effect.

I would also like to note that I enjoy listening to Juan Diego Flórez, but Mr. Zucker's comment on him verbalized what I felt--he sings beautifully but without much heart.

The fact of Mr. Zucker's being an artist himself obviously and acutely informs all that is offered in this book (vol. 1). I found it to be very difficult to set aside. Opera lovers and especially admirers of the great tenors are certain to enhance our appreciation of the performances we have always enjoyed. I'm looking forward to Volume 2.

Vic Sulkowski
Pittsburgh, PA


^^ Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher. They have, like, sixty of these reviews but those quoted above give you the general idea: people love this book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Attention, Americans and insomniacs alike: the book is being featured on a radio station, WMNR, on Tesday night, 2 am UK time.
There's going to be a live Q&A with the author, discussion of the book and the tenors featured in it.
The programme just got cancelled. It's going to be broadcast in May instead. I fancied an early night anyway!
 

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I want to get this book. My dad wants it too. Where can I find it?
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
The programme will now be broadcast on March 31st. I'll be listening on the station's website.

Radio Host Doug Fox and Listeners to Discuss Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 1 on WMNR, Tuesday, March 31 from 8 - 11 PM, New York Time.(This program was to have aired March 3 but was postponed because of a blizzard.)

http://wmnr.org/web/home.aspx
 
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