Author Topic: General Opera News  (Read 213796 times)

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #80 on: July 16, 2007, 05:12:20 AM »
I really encourage you to purchase the latest addition to the Opus Arte DVD label – a performance of Rossini's opera Il Viaggio a Reims that is conducted by Valery Gergiev. All the cast of about 17 solo singers, sing in Italian with a very prominent Russian pronunciation.

Dio mio! Russified Italian! Why not sing Italian opera with thick English accents as well? I don't know WHAT the reasons for finally putting out the DVD. It might have had to do with honoring contracts and not being able to find replacements for 17 soloists. Rossini surely would have died a second time. If ANY composer KNEW how to meld the Italian language to singing, it was he. In a broadcast film Schwartzkopf was trying to impress upon a student in a masterclass the INDISPENSIBLE NECESSITY of respect towards the language in German Lied. Comme il faut.

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #81 on: July 16, 2007, 05:44:14 AM »
If this makes you feel better, T-C, the singing in "Marriage of Figaro", "Faust", "Tales of Hoffman" was comme il faut in the NIO. But that was more than 15-20 years ago. Strangely enough several years ago in "Onegin" a friend complained about some of the Russian pronunciation. But really, turnabout should be fair play...

ZB

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« Last Edit: July 16, 2007, 06:25:35 AM by uffeviking »
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline T-C

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #82 on: July 16, 2007, 06:47:11 AM »
Get a grip, T-C. I'm sure you speak many languages well but maybe you can't recognize some good natured irony.

It is possible.


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Why should I respect them or any social group for that matter? 

More generalizations. Even if it is true for the majority it hardly justifies treating badly a person you really don’t know because he/she belongs to a certain group. This is some kind of racism which I think is totally invalid.


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But in general the professional baggage (that I'm familiar with in teaching) they come with is authoritarian and unsuited for the 21st century. Most of those who have had Russian teachers complain about their strictness and closemindedness.

The fact is that Russian singers are singing all over the world. They are part of casts in the most distinguished opera houses. Some of them are the most cherished opera singers today.


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Vocally, and that is my area of expertise, closed Russian vowels do not go with Italian.

I would like to know what Hvorostovsky has to say about it…


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But I just felt those who sang with such unclean vowels didn't bother to do their homework, in other words, humbly learn what one needs to do in order to sing in another language with respect.

I have a collection of 700 DVDs of opera productions from all around the world. I have a few examples of Italian singers singing VERY badly in excellent Italian. Pronunciation is not everything.


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HOWEVER, there would be NO WAY this "Triptych" could be done AS IS in Europe and the US without being taken to the cleaners and MUCH WORSE than what I have written.

This is pure demagogy. All the critics that I read in the Hebrew newspapers and every one of my opera addicted acquaintances (I have a few dozens) got totally another impression. While it was agreed that it was not a perfect evening, it was neither the fiasco you are implying (that in case someone other than you knows something about opera…  ;))
« Last Edit: July 16, 2007, 06:52:28 AM by T-C »

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #83 on: July 16, 2007, 07:37:21 AM »
More generalizations. Even if it is true for the majority it hardly justifies treating badly a person you really don’t know because he/she belongs to a certain group. This is some kind of racism which I think is totally invalid.

Racism! When you can't think of anything else, pull out the R card! If anything, THAT is demogogery--treating someone (me) badly that you don't know. How did YOU get there from Russo-Italiano? Why don't you just come out and call me an anti-semite because I didn't like how the Italian language was mistreated at a 'night at the opera'?

I was just going over in my mind some of the scenes where there was TOTAL incongruity between the accents. It reminds me of films in which British and American English are all bolluxed up. You have to keep shifting gears in order to understand and not be distracted. Really, diction is a perfectly valid concern in professional singing.

The fact is that Russian singers are singing all over the world. They are part of casts in the most distinguished opera houses. Some of them are the most cherished opera singers today.

Harasho for them. There are British, New Zealanders, French, German, American, Italian, African singers, too.
So what?

I would like to know what Hvorostovsky has to say about it…

...has to say about Italian diction? The norm is that one seeks out native speakers to check one's diction. (Singers do it ALL the time, or should.) This is like fingering on the piano, attention to DETAIL. Except for the men who sang abroad, no one ever apparently heard of open and closed o and e, not to mention double consonants, etc. Why bother to study such things anymore if they are unimportant?

I have a collection of 700 DVDs of opera productions from all around the world. I have a few examples of Italian singers singing VERY badly in excellent Italian. Pronunciation is not everything.

Oh heck, they have the right to sing badly as it is THEIR language.

This is pure demagogy. All the critics that I read in the Hebrew newspapers and every one of my opera addicted acquaintances (I have a few dozens) got totally another impression. While it was agreed that it was not a perfect evening, it was neither the fiasco you are implying (that in case someone other than you knows something about opera…  ;))

I wouldn't believe much of what is printed in newspapers. In fact, I don't believe ANYTHING from the press in any language. When was the last time they printed any unbiased information, let alone truth? In satire there is more truth, in my opinion. But you are so virtuous that you wouldn't ever watch (let alone laugh at) the skewering of different groups in "Nice Country" on TV. That and Jon Stewart (roasting US society) are the two programs I look forward to.

ZB
« Last Edit: July 16, 2007, 07:39:49 AM by zamyrabyrd »
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline T-C

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #84 on: July 16, 2007, 08:15:59 AM »
I withdraw from this discussion. It is useless.

And no, I didn’t say anything about Anti-Semitism. Obviously you have something against Russian people from all religions…

Have a nice day ! 
« Last Edit: July 16, 2007, 08:41:42 AM by T-C »

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #85 on: July 16, 2007, 11:00:21 AM »
First of all I did not write a screed about the Trittico. I said the third part was delightful, the pace and orchestra were good as were the male singers in general.

There is a fundamental point about language which cannot be ignored in opera and seems to have been missed totally. But I'll give an analogy that might illustrate this better before trying to explain once again. A Shakespearean play is usually done in the King's (or Queen's) English even if props or setting may be more modern. Now, imagine a Texas accent popping up suddenly, or Boston or South African. This first of all would be distracting since Shakespeare is first and foremost, language.

Some films over the years have been very weird in this respect. A famous oldie is "Waterloo Bridge" where the soldier (American) and born-to-the-manor mom (British) are supposed to be Scottish!! Once you apply cognitive dissonance and get that out of the way, you can trace the story line. Recent films like "Braveheart" also have a perplexing mix of accents.

But opera written by composers who were connoisseurs of the voice like Rossini and Puccini, who calibrated every note according to the inflection of the Italian language cannot be dismissed so easily.
Vocal production based on pure vowels is an indispensable part of the kind of classic artistic singing over the past 400 years in Western Europe. The introduction of Vaccai's exercises gives a short testament to this particular necessity.  Any great singer over the past 100 years or so for which there are recordings as opposed to those we could never hope to hear, had excellent diction.

There had been complaints about not being able to understand a singer like Sutherland. Her diction was not bad, or unItalianate, however. Having to choose between beauty of tone (believe it or not, there are many conundrums like this in music and decisions to be made) she chose the pure vowel and not the syllable. Maria Callas went the other way and sacrificed at times the pleasantness of the tone in order to accommodate the word or dramatic meaning.

But this instance was different in that the nationality of the singer trumped the character. So as in "Waterloo Bridge" one was constantly reminded that there was a contradiction between what he was supposed to be everytime he opened his mouth.

From the time the Mother Superior appeared on stage with her thick Slavic accent, I could not concentrate on the opera. Such production from her and other characters affected the musical interpretation as well. A reverse situation is when opera singers try to cross over into popular music.If they don't change their basic production, it is ALWAYS a distraction, so much that one can't enjoy or concentrate on the music.

The attitude behind all this, that also bothered me, is that the "music should fit me" and not that "I should fit the music". Look at Anna Moffo and Maria Callas. They both were born and raised in the US, yet they worked VERY HARD to achieve an exceptional Italian diction.

And I'm also sorry to say that this kind of attitude is not unknown to a certain crude aggressiveness that is expressed in other areas of life as well by certain people.

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline MishaK

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #86 on: July 16, 2007, 12:03:58 PM »
A Shakespearean play is usually done in the King's (or Queen's) English even if props or setting may be more modern. Now, imagine a Texas accent popping up suddenly, or Boston or South African. This first of all would be distracting since Shakespeare is first and foremost, language.

My sister claims that the best production of Macbeth she ever saw was in Zulu.

uffeviking

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #87 on: July 16, 2007, 12:23:31 PM »
 ;D  ;D  ;D

Offline grandma

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #88 on: July 16, 2007, 03:38:43 PM »
I'd like to say that if anyone wants to cringe, he should listen to the way Pavarotti sings "Oh Holy Night" on his Christmas album.  Talk about butchering the language.

uffeviking

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #89 on: July 16, 2007, 06:42:56 PM »

 I really encourage you to purchase the latest addition to the Opus Arte DVD label – a performance of Rossini's opera Il Viaggio a Reims that is conducted by Valery Gergiev.


T-C I had already ordered this DVD even before I read your recommendation because I read a very nice review of it in this month's Opera magazine. The production showcases young singers from the Academy of the Maryinsky Theatre, run by Gergiev's sister Larissa Gergieva. I applaud giving young singers the exposure to an international audience via this Opus Arte DVD.

And isn't this horse a beauty?  :)

Offline T-C

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #90 on: July 16, 2007, 09:22:55 PM »
[And isn't this horse a beauty?  :)

It is.

Lis, I’m quite sure you will like it. This is not a regular opera production. The orchestra is seated on the stage so here and there you get a glimpse of Gargiev that is doing an excellent job with the Kirov orchestra. The singers perform in front of the orchestra and on a platform, which goes into the audience seats.

Most of the singers are very young and unknown. Some of them sing with a very prominent Slavic pronunciation, but after ten minutes it didn’t bother me at all.

I was especially impressed with the soprano Larissa Youdina singing brilliant coloratura with a glowing blonde hairdo (Marilyn Monroe's style…), Anna Kiknadze with a beautiful and deep Mezzo, and the powerful tenor of Daniil Shtoda.

Vocally, It is not a perfect performance, but a very enjoyable one. You can read Nigel review about it in his blog.

In the middle : Larissa Youdina     


« Last Edit: July 16, 2007, 09:24:39 PM by T-C »

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #91 on: July 16, 2007, 10:56:56 PM »
I just want to add to my previous post that the MUSIC is affected in the WAY one sings. When Pavarotti and Kiri cross over to more popular music without getting rid of their operatic timbre, the character of the music is changed. But not only that, those who sing know that solving musical problems frequently revert to for instance, making a purer vowel in order to get a purer sound. And this all affects breathing as well. Which in turn affects phrasing.

Translating in toto is a risky business and successful only to a certain point. (But preferable to singing the original language improperly.) Callas even sang Parsifal in Italian but for sure something must have gotten lost in the translation. But I am not talking about that. Keeping the original language and not doing all the homework either through carelessness and egoism is reprehensible. Opera is not just sticking syllables to music. Neither is Lied.

Someone said that one could construct the original score by just transcribing what Callas did. If someone like her can evince humility towards the composer and librettist, lesser mortals can be cautious about diving in where angels fear to tread. Also it has been said that the two Empresses of music divided up the territory--the German repertoire for Schwartzkopf  and the Italian for Callas. Conceivably either of the two would have been very competent musically to sing the other's repertoire. But they also knew that it wasn't as simple as all that. It takes a thorough grounding of the culture to do it right.

There was not a hair out of place when Crespin sang French. How do the rest of us DARE?
Really, I think such a lax attitude is the reason why there are NO women singers these days on the level of the previous greats.  Their alleged secret was working hard and strangely enough, humility.

ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline knight66

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #92 on: July 17, 2007, 12:42:26 AM »
ZB, Surely we would be loosing out on a great deal of music making if people only performed the music they were steeped in culturally and when their language skills were perfect. People have to learn and the Rossini production was done seemingly with great success by unusually young singers. According to the reviews I read they brought all sorts of special qualities and clear enjoyment to their work.

Schwartzkopf sang plenty of Italian roles, she even sang Traviata and whether she gave it up on watching Callas is beside the point. There was only one Callas and she could not exactly spread herself across the world's opera houses. Lesser singers have to make a living and provide what insights and pleasure they can, often not inconsiderable.

The insistence on perfection is a kind of ideological fascism in itself and although I don't like hearing Italian clearly mangled, I am nevertheless happy to hear and see promising artists regarding them as works in progress. My understanding is that most Western singers do not sound remotely Russian to native speakers. I would be reluctant to suggest they give the idea up as a bad job and leave it just to the Eastern block singers to bring the pieces to life.

As to holding up Crespin as some sort of nonpareil; I provided on another thread good evidence that she sang flat and frankly I would prefer a singer who can reach the notes, even if the French is not perfect.

Mike
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uffeviking

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #93 on: July 17, 2007, 04:20:27 AM »
T-C mentioned Nigel's review of the Rossini opera under discussion. Looked for it, found it - and some day I'll learn how to fabricate the short cut; but since previous posts have been lengthy I am confident this excellent critique by our friend will be easy reading, even the lovely horse Princegets honerouble mention in the cast list!

Rossini – Il viaggio a Reims
Théâtre du Châtelet – Paris, Monday December 12 2005

Conductor: Valery Gergiev. Production: Alaina Maratrat. Corinna: Irma Guigolachvili. Marchesa Melibea: Anna Kiknadze. Contessa di Folleville: Larissa Youdina. Madama Cortese: Anastastia Belyaeva. Cavalier Belfiore: Dmitir Voropaev. Conte di Libenskof: Daniil Shtoda. Lord Sidney: Edouard Tsanga. Don Profondo: Nikolaï Kamenski. Barone di Trombonok: Vladislav Ouspenski. Don Alvaro: Alexeï Safioulin. Don Luigino: Andreï Ilioushnikov. Maddalena: Elena Sommer. Modestina: Olga Kitchenko. Antonio: Pavel Shmoulevich. Orchestra of the Mariinski Theatre, St Petersburg. Mariinski Theatre Academy for Young Singers. And the horse, Prince.

If this second Viaggio of the season played with a 30-minute interval I suspect it was only because French bank Crédit Agricole needed the half-hour to pour champagne down the throats of the numerous and assorted bigwigs invited for their Christmas treat. Certainly, time flies when you’re having fun, and as we were all having an absolute whale of a time, thanks to these grinning, enthusiastic youngsters, the evening sped by (apart from waiting for Gergiev, who seems to make a point of being late) and we could have managed, for once, without.

Productions quite often spill out into the house, but they rarely break down to this extent the conventions more usually upheld between audience and performers. Music is conventionally listened to in silence, but here singers dangling their legs over the apron commented to the front rows while their colleagues sang taxing solos, and when the countess’s giant, striped hat-box arrived, from the very rear of the house, the orchestra was inaudible over the din of the chorus shouting to the audience to pass it over their heads to the stage.

In any case, the stage was everywhere: the pit was covered, and the white stage extended in a T-shaped catwalk into the house, boxing in some of the richer patrons, with steps wherever feasible. The opera started (15 minutes late, of course) with Mariinski Theatre cleaners hoovering in front of the curtain, apparently surprised to find an audience there. Then the noise began, all around, as singers and players poured in from every side (in costumes hovering somewhere between the 30s and the 50s) with their suitcases, and the curtain went up to reveal the inside of a round, seaside tent with, to the left, a tall lifeguard’s tower topped with a striped awning and to the rear, the Mariinski orchestra all – male and female – in white tails like a big band at Blackpool. Even the music stands were white.

The kids romped through a funny, highly professional production with a few effective props, and perhaps the high point of the evening was the arrival of Corinne (which involved getting a number of audience members to leave their seats to make way: never seen that before either…) in a vast, conical mountain of crushed white chiffon and huge, beehive hair all – dress and hair – lit from within. The audience lapped it up and was consequently – and rightly - indulgent as to the singing.

Casting students in Il viaggio seems a madcap idea: it was more or less a “royal command” work for the coronation of Charles X and Rossini was able to call on and compose for a dozen top singers. But I suppose when you’re touring your opera studio you need a showcase for as many of your best singers as you can thrust forward, and for that Il viaggio is ideal – the alternative being the less feasible War & Peace.

Naturally, the result was stylistically un-PC, with the wrong kinds of voice in the wrong roles, not to mention the Mariinski’s distinctive sound sounding distinctly odd, trumpets especially, in Rossini (but what a superb flute obbligato for Lord Sidney).

The singing varied considerably: Melibea had a presence bigger than her voice; Don Alvaro, in black leather from head to toe, was clearly chosen for his sex-appeal rather than his intonation…. while on the other hand, the Cavalier Belfiore was a very promising tenorino and, crazy though it may sound, in Irma Guigolachvili’s Corinna I thought I heard a voice like Caballé’s: this girl has power, presence and temperament, she already has a sense of style, of shading and phrasing and for now she has agility… I could hear her in Norma today and in the big Verdi roles later. One to watch.

The other one to watch will be Daniil Shtoda, not a huge tenor voice, but nevertheless musical, ringing and all in tune – including at the very top – where the production allowed them all to hold their notes hammily. I thought of the young Carreras, when he was still singing Rossini. But Shtoda, I learned later, has already sung Lensky in Paris, so he’s hardly a student…

Larissa Youdina, done up as a 50s blonde bimbo in a Marilyn wig and striped balloon dress, has the kind of “nightingale” voice that hasn’t been heard much in the west since coloratura sopranos crossed over into musicals in the 30s… Very high and rather hard, with rapid vibrato… I wonder what roles she’ll be able to take on outside Russia.

Don Profondo was sung by a young man with a big grin, floppy hair and rosy cheeks clearly cut out for a career as the drunken vagabond who’s so traditional a feature of the Russian repertoire. And finally, I’d like to put in word for Pavel Shmulevich as Antonio. Not much of a part, but what striking elegance he brought to it.

You don’t often get quite so much fun in an opera house, nor do you often hear quite so much wild applause…


Hector

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #94 on: July 17, 2007, 04:43:31 AM »
I'd like to say that if anyone wants to cringe, he should listen to the way Pavarotti sings "Oh Holy Night" on his Christmas album.  Talk about butchering the language.

Thank you. Next time I fancy cringing I'll have this to refer to.

Last night at the Proms (16/7) Pappano conducted his Santa Cecilia orchestra in Rossini's Stabat Mater with not one Latin singer among the lineup of soloists (British, American, South African and Russian).

It was brilliant!

Offline knight66

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #95 on: July 17, 2007, 04:50:21 AM »
I guess native Latin singers are now somewhat long in the tooth.

I have ordered the Rossini opera and while I was at it I ordered a well thought of Norma, Caballe, Vickers...sorry Lis, I know he sets your teeth on edge, but I promise not to write to you while he is singing.

Mike
« Last Edit: July 17, 2007, 04:56:43 AM by knight »
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uffeviking

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #96 on: July 17, 2007, 08:39:32 AM »
Vickers...sorry Lis, I know he sets your teeth on edge, but I promise not to write to you while he is singing.

Mike

Never fear, Luv, I have trained my ears to automatically shut down when the first note from his vocal chords gets within one mile!  :-*


Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #97 on: July 17, 2007, 08:53:15 AM »
ZB, Surely we would be loosing out on a great deal of music making if people only performed the music they were steeped in culturally and when their language skills were perfect. People have to learn and the Rossini production was done seemingly with great success by unusually young singers...

The insistence on perfection is a kind of ideological fascism in itself and although I don't like hearing Italian clearly mangled, I am nevertheless happy to hear and see promising artists regarding them as works in progress. My understanding is that most Western singers do not sound remotely Russian to native speakers. I would be reluctant to suggest they give the idea up as a bad job and leave it just to the Eastern block singers to bring the pieces to life.

As to holding up Crespin as some sort of nonpareil; I provided on another thread good evidence that she sang flat and frankly I would prefer a singer who can reach the notes, even if the French is not perfect.
Mike

No one is insisting on perfection and having good diction doesn't mean to sacrifice good tone or vice versa. Crespin, in my opinion, once she stopped promoting herself as a soprano and accepted herself as a mezzo came into her own and stopped singing flat. I like young artists too performing in college and all. Maybe I'm out of it and opera in the 21st century is just having a good time, using the works of composers in a different way than they could have imagined. Parody, in a way. I have a REAL hard time with Russo-Italian as the basic production is so different. Almost a month ago I was present at a vocal recital that allegedly had Italian songs and arias. This particular teacher/singer didn't have a clue about Italian, nor was she interested. Probably this was the way they did it in her country of origin and rightly intuited that no one really bothers about such things anymore.

But no greatness will come out of such a trival approach because attention to detail is what made the greats great.
(I also must be a dinosaur if I revere Vickers, which I do...)
ZB
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Offline knight66

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #98 on: July 17, 2007, 09:22:54 AM »
Vickers is a great favourite of mine, but he did not exactly produce his voice in the typically conventional way. Indeed it strikes me he took great risks in his vocal technique. Also, his French is not idiomatic at all. Even I can tell. Despite this, he remains at the top of the tree as far as I am concerned.

I must have misunderstood your posts, as I rather gained the impression that attention to the language and mastery of it was a prerequisite. Things do change and not always for the better. But we need to look and listen on a case by case basis.

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: General Opera News
« Reply #99 on: July 17, 2007, 09:44:08 PM »
But we need to look and listen on a case by case basis.
Mike

Thanks for saying the above. You really extracted the correct view. If it is generally agreed that a production will be a camp up or a parody just to have fun, there is nothing wrong with that. Viaggio in Rheims is not exactly Iphegenia in Aulide or Medea in Corinth.

ZB

PS Vickers in Fidelio is really summa cum laude.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2007, 03:03:05 AM by zamyrabyrd »
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

― Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds