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Who sings this the best?

Round Two: In Fernem Land ( French) Thill, Franz

1748 Views 70 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  MAS
Since every one seems to have already voted on the Samson aria I think we have time for a small contest before Shaughnessy posts on Sunday
Georges Thill sings the famous aria from Wagner's opera Lohengrin: "In Fernem Land" translated in french "Aux bords lointains". Recorded in 1931
Aux bords lointains (Lohengrin) · Paul Franz Lebendige Vergangenheit - Paul Franz
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It sounds much more belcanto in French to me.

English translation
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Far and Away (Grail Telling)
Far and away, unapproachable to your steps
There is a castle called Montsalvat;
In the middle there stands a luminous temple,
As precious as nothing else on earth is known.

A vessel of miracoulos blessing
Is guarded inside as supreme sanctuary.
It has been brought down by a host of angels,
To be cared for by the purest human beings.

Annually a dove from above approaches
To reinforce its miraculous power;
Its name is Sangrail, and it grants blissfully purest believe
To its knighthood.

Who is predestined to serve the Sangrail
It prepares with supernal power;
Every evil's deception is lost to him,
When he sees it, death's power vanishes;

Even to him who is sent by it to alien lands,
Appointed as fighter for virtue's justice,
His holy power will not be taken away,
If he goes unrecognized there as its knight.

May the Sangrail's blessing be ever of so noble cast,
It must flee the layman's eyes when it is unveiled.
Therefore you shall not doubt the knight,
If you recognize him - he has to leave you.

Now listen, how I reward the forbidden question:
By the Sangrail I was sent to you:
My father Parzival wears its crown,
His knight, I - am called Lohengrin
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Wagner doesn't sound bad in French, although key words inevitably get displaced from the positions where the composer carefully set them. Lohengrin's mention of the dove - Taube - is a lovely moment a tenor can make poetry with, but that's entirely lost when colombe is moved out of its musical place.

Neither of these performances exhibits any poetry, for me an essential quality in a knight of the Grail, but both are splendidly vocalized and are quite similar. I thought Franz was a little rushed, possibly in anticipation of running over the permissible record side timing. It's a tough choice, but I think I'll pick Thill in recognition of the stunning ease with which he sings everything. I could change my mind if I listened again, but that'll do for now.
You hear so many things I miss but I knew we had some solid vocals here. I really love Thill's voice.
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Franz has some steady, solid points; Thill is resourceful and unique, as usual. I'd agree with Woodduck that there isn't much POETRY in either, but maybe the vocal writing doesn't allow for much. ... Volker, from 1927 or Bayreuth/1936 is very, darn GOOD, and thanks to Barbebleu for the Gedda version! Well, if you want BOTH strength and exceptional vocalism, plus a bit of poetry, one need go no further than the surpassing Melchior, especially 1943 (Met, w/Leinsdorf).
You'll like the final round of singers.
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The poetry is in the words and intention of the singer - it’s a mystical story and the singers have to be “in” on it, as has the conductor. After all, it has to do with the Holy Grail land faith, and Lohengrin has to be in a sort of trance during most of his singing.
We did a great traditional version here and it was one of the great operatic events of my life. Even if you don't like The Ring and Tristan you might really enjoy Lohengrin. It is more Bel Canto in my opinion and it has the most thrilling choruses I've ever heard in an opera. You can hear more the Italianate influence with the French language.
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It’s one of Wagner’s “operas,” rather than “music dramas,” with its great choruses, especially hard on the tenors in the chorus, but just gorgeous. We also had a traditional staging, the first Act really looked like it was in a forest, and the lighting design was spectacular (his name was Thomas Munn, never had better lighting than when he was part of the company).
Lighting can really be a very key part of the staging. Didn't you guys tend towards more traditional rather than avant-guard settings for operas.
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I've always thought of Lohengrin as Wagner's "fairy tale" opera: innocent maiden unjustly accused, evil witch who tries to destroy her, young boy turned into a swan, knight in shining armor who longs to experience human love... Most of Wagner's dramas are psychologically complex and even disturbing, but the tale of Lohengrin is great bedtime reading that will give the child in us happy thrills and not keep us awake. A production ought to be beautiful to look at and listen to, but still needs to give full weight to the story's gentle pathos. A lot rests on the tenor portraying the Grail knight, who should be both heroic and poetic - two seemingly opposite qualities rare enough in tenors, and rarer found together in one singer.
Most of the fiction I like are sort of fairy tale/ supernatural quest sort of things. I've read Proust, Joyce and Faulkner but now that I am old give me Harry Potter or some sword and sorcery stuff. Preteen in an old man's body. Most opera plots bore me but I like Wagner's plots.
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Franz was an outstanding singer of Wagner's heldentenor roles, though he did it mainly in French. Very much worth hearing. Just thought someone should say that lest Thill hog all the praise.
I found him studying up for these contests and Franz was always highly praised. I think French Wagner works better than Italian Wagner ( but an Italian Callas offering is upcoming and NO ONE HERE will object 😜) Prewar France was a huge opera hot spot and most operas were done in French then including Wagner.
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Thill is a considerably better actor than Franz - An argument can be made that in the vocal technique categories, a preference for one over the other might only be a question of degrees, but in "musical phrasing", Thill had a clear edge - Wider palette of tonal colours - darker shades, lighter tints, and a far more extensive gray-scale -

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Thill's grayscale of tonal colors...

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Franz's grayscale of tonal colors...
This is me


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Why are Irish words and names spelled in a way that no non-native would ever guess their pronunciation? For example, why isn't Sean spelled "Shawn"? I'm sure there are some sounds that can't be represented by our 26-letter alphabet.
It is a language that would defeat my efforts after one week LOL. I knew a Sean once. No matter how you spelled his name he was magic LOL.
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This is what I was told in one facebook group. That scholars consider Lohengrin a bel canto.

Edit: In spite of people complaining about French, you yourself say it exposes the bel canto-ish quality. I did not have such a revelation here, but the "misplaced" language helped me to see things in other contests.
Wagner originally wanted all of his music sung in Bel Canto. It is one of the reasons I liked Jane Eaglen in Wagner as she also sang Bellini and sang them in the same style. The musical style of Lohengrin is definitely much more Italiante in it's overall style and they way the orchestration is during singing.
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