Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 87346 times)

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Offline betterthanfine

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #800 on: January 14, 2018, 04:26:08 PM »
Wow! That was one hell of an amazing night at the opera! This new production is all as great as the reviews said, and then some! Aksenova, so I read, is a seasoned Cio-Cio-San, and she really owns the part, while Schmid was a wonderful Suzuki ... and Pirgiu a terrific Pinkerton. However, in this production, Sharpless - again excellently sung by Mulligan - is taking a more central role than usual and the perspective is shifted a bit, too ... the production makes us see it all from the point of view of Butterfly, so the exotic is mostly just how it is, and the American (the empty white stage, in the style of Japanese rooms, though of course much larger) becomes the foreign and strange part - intruding symbolically by various pieces of furniture that gets placed - and remains estranged - in the empty room as the first act evolves. The entire production has been choreographed and stresses the formulist aspect of opera as an art form quite strongly. The choir in act one moves in a "Japanese" way, very disciplined, thus creating - and dissoluting - geometrical shapes on the empty white stage. Quite fascinating indeed.

The long interlude in the second act has been incorporated fully, and is played with open curtain, while Cio-Cio-San is seen waiting - the stage at that point quite empty again, it's three years later after all and the American invasion has left a long time ago. Butterfly though welcomes Sharpless by stressing her American-ness ... though the costumes and behaviour, the movements, the flowers beings spread (looking gorgeous of course, on the white stage - both the flowers and the Japanese-styled costumes of Cio-Cio-San) speak another language. The orchestra under Rustioni did a fantastic job, too - they're really perfect for Verdi, Puccini and the like!

Review in German:
http://www.peterhagmann.com/?p=1467
I'm surprised Aksenova made such a good Butterfly. I've heard her twice in Amsterdam (in Khovanshchina and Pique Dame) and found her voice too light for the roles she was singing. It sounded pushed and had a beat to it. Butterfly would probably be even heavier. But I'm happy to hear she was satisfying, and that the production was so good!

Offline king ubu

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #801 on: January 15, 2018, 07:43:13 AM »
I'm surprised Aksenova made such a good Butterfly. I've heard her twice in Amsterdam (in Khovanshchina and Pique Dame) and found her voice too light for the roles she was singing. It sounded pushed and had a beat to it. Butterfly would probably be even heavier. But I'm happy to hear she was satisfying, and that the production was so good!

Interesting ... I'm not deeply enough into singing yet to be able to judge who may make a fine Mimì and who'd be a great Gilda (okay, for some roles I may have an opinion by now, but mostly related to recordings and singers I know) .. but Aksenova was indeed great, she WAS Cio-Cio-San, I felt. That may help to cover up for some singing inadequacies in the end, but I really didn't hear any. Also she seems to be a specialist for that part by now - at least I read something like that in her profile or in some review?
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #802 on: January 18, 2018, 03:44:20 AM »


Still working through the live Warner box, we come to the second of Callas's Gluck roles.

The sound is much better than on the Alceste, but, aside from Callas's superb Ifigenia, the performance has little else to commend it. Sanzogno conducts in soupy, glutinous style and the rest of the cast, save for the young Cossotto's Diana have little to commend them. Still worth hearing, though, for Callas's commanding, infinitely moving Ifigenia.

This was the last time Callas worked with Visconti, though they didn't know this at the time, and the production was spectacular with Callas extravagantly costumed in silk and pearls.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #803 on: January 21, 2018, 10:57:44 AM »
I got this Zelmira of Gioacchino Rossini during the opera rara fall sale.  It is a public recording from Edinburg festival in 2003.  Only the audience applause can be heard - no other spurious noise.  The story of this opera reminds me of the return of Martin Guerre and is a great backdrop for an opera.  Rossini wrote here some really lovely music for the voice and the orchestra.  The image I had of Rossini as a composer has been rising steadily over the past few years.   The music is extremely well crafted.



Vocally, I have not been as impressed by this production as some of the critics I have read.  There is also a DVD of this opera with D. Florez.

The cover used here portrays Rossini spanish wife Isabella Colbran who interpreted the role of Zelmira at the creation.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2018, 11:03:12 AM by Spineur »

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #804 on: January 23, 2018, 03:50:19 AM »
Zelmira looks very appealing, Spineur. All the Rossini operas written for the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples (commissioned by Domenico Barbaja) I've heard so far are great works, and very ambitious ones. BTW, Naxos will soon release another of Rossini's Neapolitan operas, Ricciardo e Zoraide (the work's only second recording ever AFAIK).

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This is a most interesting and enjoyable composition. The convoluted plot (based on a drama by Alexandre Dumas fils and Pierre de Corvin) includes an eerie mad scene for the soprano (something of an anachronism by 1886), some very well crafted ensembles, and a difficult tenor part. But the most striking thing is the intelligent and varied use of the orchestra (a hallmark of Catalani, and something not usually encountered in Italian opera of that time) and the avoidance of the formulaic features of contemporary works.

The 1989 live recording form Lucca does not have the best sound in the world (one would not expect that from the Bongiovanni label), and includes some annoying stage (or is it audience?) noise at some points, but is perfectly serviceable. The soloists take on their roles bravely and convincingly IMO, and the whole thing has a rough and provincial, but rather quaint and endearing, air to it.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2018, 03:57:14 AM by ritter »
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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #805 on: January 24, 2018, 07:01:50 AM »
My own private opera season continues with:



This is an awkward edition of the score, as it is not the original Naples 1818 version (Mosé in Egitto), but rather a back translation from the French of the later 1827 Paris version (Moïse et Pharaon)--and heavily cut to boot. Be that as it may, this sacred opera (almost an opera-oratorio) has some great moments, with an overall "hieratic" feel and great dignity in many passages.

The performance is Rossini in the "grand old manner", which does not necessarily mean good. Tullio Serafin leads the San Carlo Theatre orchestra (not the smoothest ensemble in the world, I'm afraid) very convincingly, giving the rather static score just the perfect momentum. The singing, though, is another matter: soprano Caterina Mancini has a huge voice (she also recorded Abigaille in Nabucco for Cetra around those years), but is not very nuanced (EDIT: Mancini is generally admirable, by far the best in this set--a much underrated singer, I'm afraid). The real problem for me is the presence of two singers that over the years I've come to dislike quite strongly: Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (who sounds strangely "hollow" to me, and seems always to sing flat) and Mario Filippeschi (whose tone I find downright unpleasant, and has serious problems in any florid passages). BTW, the appearance of these two gentlemen in Maria Callas's first studio recording of Bellini's Norma detracts greatly from that (legendary) set's merits IMHO.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 07:44:51 AM by ritter »
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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #806 on: January 25, 2018, 08:05:59 AM »
Ancora più Rossini:


This is one of only three Rossini roles Maria Callas ever performed (along with Rosina in Il barbiere and Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia--incidentally, the only two comic roles in her repertoire). It's a pity, because Callas at this point of her career, and in this music, is simply extraordinary. Even despite the dismal sound (which particularly affects the choral and ensemble segments), one can realize how every note, every phrase, every coloratura is handled with superb virtuosity and is delivered with deep expressive powers (this being the combination that IMHO makes Callas unique in living memory).

The rest of the cast is adequate (even my bête noire Mario Filippeschi is tolerable here), and the overall performance is slightly rough, but so full of excitement (vigorously led by Tullio Serafin), that is is extremely engaging. Must have been quite a night at the opera!

These were the performances staged by Alberto Savinio (about whom we talked in another thread a couple of days ago) just days before his death. This seems to have been a first rate event (musically and visually).

« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 09:04:50 AM by ritter »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #807 on: January 25, 2018, 10:06:39 AM »
Ancora più Rossini:


This is one of only three Rossini roles Maria Callas ever performed (along with Rosina in Il barbiere and Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia--incidentally, the only two comic roles in her repertoire). It's a pity, because Callas at this point of her career, and in this music, is simply extraordinary. Even despite the dismal sound (which particularly affects the choral and ensemble segments), one can realize how every note, every phrase, every coloratura is handled with superb virtuosity and is delivered with deep expressive powers (this being the combination that IMHO makes Callas unique in living memory).

The rest of the cast is adequate (even my bête noire Mario Filippeschi is tolerable here), and the overall performance is slightly rough, but so full of excitement (vigorously led by Tullio Serafin), that is is extremely engaging. Must have been quite a night at the opera!

These were the performances staged by Alberto Savinio (about whom we talked in another thread a couple of days ago) just days before his death. This seems to have been a first rate event (musically and visually).



Execrable sound, but, my word, what singing! Not only the incredible virtuosity, but the way she makes musical sense of it all, and the voice is so huge and powerful. It's like hearing Nilsson sing the Queen of the Night, with needle fine accuracy.  If there weren't recorded evidence, you wouldn't believe it possible.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/armida-florence-1952/



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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #808 on: January 25, 2018, 10:36:22 AM »
Maria Callas "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero" Armida, 1954 San Remo

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/_V-hYQgIpCc" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/_V-hYQgIpCc</a>
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #809 on: January 25, 2018, 12:47:46 PM »
Maria Callas "D'Amor Al Dolce Impero" Armida, 1954 San Remo

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/_V-hYQgIpCc" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/_V-hYQgIpCc</a>

But the 1952 performance is even more stunning.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #810 on: January 25, 2018, 01:41:37 PM »
As an appendix to my listening to Callas’s Armida earlier today:


Just some parts of Act II (the choruses, “D’amore al dolce impero” and the concluding ballet).

Cecilia Gasdia sings beautifully and valiantly in the fiendishly difficult rondò, and is admirable. But where Callas gives us a fully rounded musical account (as I think Tsaraslondon has pointed out in the past), with Gasdia one cannot but get the impression that we’re enjoying a display of vocal fireworks (and not much more than that, excellent as the singing may be).

But with this modern sound, one can also get a better picture of what a fantastic opera Rossini’s Armida is...and Domenico Barbaja was clearly one hell of an impresario.....

BTW, Rossini’ self-plagiarism is actually rather endearing  ;) (there’s passages in Mosè and in Armida that are exactly the same—with different texts, of course).
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 01:57:00 PM by ritter »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #811 on: January 25, 2018, 02:24:48 PM »
As an appendix to my listening to Callas’s Armida earlier today:


Just some parts of Act II (the choruses, “D’amore al dolce impero” and the concluding ballet).

Cecilia Gasdia sings beautifully and valiantly in the fiendishly difficult rondò, and is admirable. But where Callas gives us a fully rounded musical account (as I think Tsaraslondon has pointed out in the past), with Gasdia one cannot but get the impression that we’re enjoying a display of vocal fireworks (and not much more than that, excellent as the singing may be).

But with this modern sound, one can also get a better picture of what a fantastic opera Rossini’s Armida is...and Domenico Barbaja was clearly one hell of an impresario.....

BTW, Rossini’ self-plagiarism is actually rather endearing  ;) (there’s passages in Mosè and in Armida that are exactly the same—with different texts, of course).

I listened to this set myself a couple of months ago, and I rather enjoyed it; in fact I thought the tenors generally an improvement on those in the Callas set. Gasdia quite impressed me too, but, then you hear Callas, and really there is no comparison.

Talking of plagiarism, by the way, did you notice the direct quote of Giordani's Caro mio ben? It's in the andante section of Armida's entrance quartet.


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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #812 on: January 26, 2018, 01:41:57 PM »
Talking of plagiarism, by the way, did you notice the direct quote of Giordani's Caro mio ben? It's in the andante section of Armida's entrance quartet.
No, that bit passed me by, but I’ll look out for it when I listen to the opera again... ;)

I can’t seem to get enough of Rossini’s Neapolitan operas these days  :-[:



Our fellow GMGer Spineur was listening to the later Opera Rara recording of Zelmira recently, and I concur with him that this is very well crafted music, with delightful vocal writing and really interesting twists in the orchestration. I would add that some of the choral passages are superb. This opera is great fun!  :)

The recording is very enjoyable, well led by Claudio Scimone, and with Cecilia Gasdia (even more enchanting here than in Armida) leading a great cast.
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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #813 on: February 03, 2018, 07:44:21 AM »
My own personal Italian opera season continues with a classic recording of Verdi’s La forza del destino:


I’ve repeatedly stated my reservations with much of Verdi’s output, but La forza del destino is a work I really enjoy, as I find its juxtaposition of the comic (the scenes involving Preziosilla) and the über-dramatic romantic cloak-and-dagger main plot (as we’d say in Spain, even the prompter gets killed at the end :D) quite original and well-crafted. Furthermore, I cannot help thinking that when working on commissions from international theatres (here St. Petersburg, or in the case of Les vêpres siciliennes and Don Carlos, the Paris Opéra), Verdi was particularly attentive to the orchestration (perhaps he knew he was writing for better ensembles?) and avoided many of the formulaic (and IHMO downright vulgar) procedures that plague most of his middle-period operas  ::).

This recording has never had a very good press, but I think it’s rather accomplished. Zinka Milanov was past her prime, but still has a lovely voice and masters the role of Leonora perfectly. She might sound a bit old-fashioned (we get the sense of the regal grand diva singing Leonora, more than the character of Leonora), but it is magnificently so  :). Giuseppe di Stefano still displays his usual beautiful tone, but does appear overparted as Don Alvaro at times. Leonard Warren is simply outstaning in a role which would prove fatal to him in the end (he died onstage singing Don Carlo at the Met some years later  :(). Rosalind Elias, whom I had the chance to see live many, many years ago (unfortunately, in an opera I dislike profoundly—Massenet’s Werther, with Alfredo Kraus in the title role) is a very engaging Preziosilla. Fernando Previtali (whom I also experienced live, conducting Turandot in the late 70s  8)) achieves a very well-paced performance, and the dynamics are expertly managed.

Bits like “La Vergine degli angeli”, “Solenne in quest’ora”, the chorus (“ronda”) “Compagni, sostiamo” or the raucous “Lorchè pifferi e tamburi” make La forza... one of Verdi’s greatest achievements IMO.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 10:37:25 AM by ritter »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #814 on: February 03, 2018, 07:51:31 AM »
I’m going to try to listen to this tonight (at some point):



For me, this opera has it all: stunning orchestral music and opulent vocal stylizing. Along with Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges, it has everything that I personally admire about opera rolled into one unique synthesis. I should also mention my love for Janáček’s, Martinů’s, and Szymanowski’s operas.
“It must be beautiful, or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #815 on: February 03, 2018, 08:01:32 AM »
I’m going to try to listen to this tonight (at some point):



For me, this opera has it all: stunning orchestral music and opulent vocal stylizing. Along with Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortilèges, it has everything that I personally admire about opera rolled into one unique synthesis. I should also mention my love for Janáček’s, Martinů’s, and Szymanowski’s operas.
Good day, John. I cannot see the image you’ve posted, but I guess you’re referring to Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Strangely, when I listen to it, I’m always very impresssed, but I  don’t feel drawn to it that often (in the sense that I seldom find myself thinking “It’s about time to listen to Bluebeard”), Bartók in general I admire, but I also feel strangely “distant” from.  :-[
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #816 on: February 03, 2018, 01:48:44 PM »
My own personal Italian opera season continues with a classic recording of Verdi’s La forza del destino:


I’ve repeatedly stated my reservations with much of Verdi’s output, but La forza del destino is a work I really enjoy, as I find its juxtaposition of the comic (the scenes involving Preziosilla) and the über-dramatic romantic cloak-and-dagger main plot (as we’d say in Spain, even the prompter gets killed at the end :D) quite original and well-crafted. Furthermore, I cannot help thinking that when working on commissions from international theatres (here St. Petersburg, or in the case of Les vêpres siciliennes and Don Carlos, the Paris Opéra), Verdi was particularly attentive to the orchestration (perhaps he knew he was writing for better ensembles?) and avoided many of the formulaic (and IHMO downright vulgar) procedures that plague most of his middle-period operas  ::).

This recording has never had a very good press, but I think it’s rather accomplished. Zinka Milanov was past her prime, but still has a lovely voice and masters the role of Leonora perfectly. She might sound a bit old-fashioned (we get the sense of the regal grand diva singing Leonora, more than the character of Leonora), but it is magnificently so  :). Giuseppe di Stefano still displays his usual beautiful tone, but does appear overparted as Don Alvaro at times. Leonard Warren is simply outstaning in a role which would prove fatal to him in the end (he died onstage singing Don Carlo at the Met some years later  :(). Rosalind Elias, whom I had the chance to see live many, many years ago (unfortunately, in an opera I dislike profoundly—Massenet’s Werther, with Alfredo Kraus in the title role) is a very engaging Preziosilla. Fernando Previtali (whom I also experienced live, conducting Turandot in the late 70s  8)) achieves a very well-paced performance, and the dynamics are expertly managed.

Bits like “La Vergine degli angeli”, “Solenne in quest’ora”, the chorus (“ronda”) “Compagni, sostiamo” or the raucous “Lorchè pifferi e tamburi” make La forza... one of Verdi’s greatest achievements IMO.

Of course, if you want to hear someone truly inhabiting the role of Leonora, you can't do any better than Callas, still in good voice back in 1954.



The supporting cast (Tucker, Tagliabue, Nicolai and Rossi-Lemeni) is not quite in her league, but Serafin conducts a thrilling version of the score. I review it on my blog here.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/la-forza-del-destino/
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 04:39:48 PM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #817 on: February 03, 2018, 05:26:31 PM »
Both Callas and Tucker offer sizzling vocal acting in their last act curses: Leonora’s aria « Pace, pace » ends with a thrilling  high B flat on the final « Maledizione! » . Tucker (Carlo) is bloodcurdling when he curses the gods after Leonora’s death. His own repeated shouts of « Maledizione » are quite something.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 05:38:42 PM by André »

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #818 on: February 03, 2018, 05:39:05 PM »
Good day, John. I cannot see the image you’ve posted, but I guess you’re referring to Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Strangely, when I listen to it, I’m always very impresssed, but I  don’t feel drawn to it that often (in the sense that I seldom find myself thinking “It’s about time to listen to Bluebeard”), Bartók in general I admire, but I also feel strangely “distant” from.  :-[

Good day night to you, Rafael. :) Bluebeard’s Castle was one of those works that just drew me immediately. I’ve always been drawn to Bartók. His musical language is highly appealing to me. He’s also just a fascinating figure in the 20th Century in general.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2018, 05:50:58 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #819 on: February 04, 2018, 02:21:00 AM »




Comparing these two transfers of the famous Lisbon La Traviata is to find that the Warner is much harsher and wirier. It just sounds like a re-hash of the 1997 Callas Edition, which had the same problem. The 1987 version, which was, I believe, remastered by Keith Hardwicke, is much warmer and easier on the ear. If you have it, stick with it.

The performance is a great one and Callas is in marginally fresher voice than she was in London a few months later, but that Covent Garden performance remains my favourite of all Callas's Violettas preserved in sound, one of those rare occasions which transcends mere music making, and takes us out of the opera house to truth itself.

Incidentally, cover art on the two issues above is not quite right. The Warner features a photo taken at Covent Garden, though Callas did wear the same dress in Lisbon, and the EMI features a photo from the 1955 Visconti La Scala production.



« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 04:06:02 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas