Author Topic: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera  (Read 17143 times)

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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2019, 08:26:52 PM »
A fascinating read thus far but I wonder if there isn’t more than just a hint that the over-intellectualisation of any art from can contribute to its demise?

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2019, 04:29:08 AM »
A fascinating read thus far but I wonder if there isn’t more than just a hint that the over-intellectualisation of any art from can contribute to its demise?

If you mean injecting contemporary problems or opinions into a work not meant to carry such baggage, Conrad Osborne would agree.  The title of his book says it all: Opera as Opera.

A review of the book by The Wall Street Journal's Joseph Horowitz:

Quote



"...“Opera as Opera: The State of the Art”—788 large, densely printed pages, festooned with footnotes and endnotes. It is, without question, the most important book ever written in English about opera in performance. It is also a cri de coeur, documenting the devastation of a single precinct of Western high culture in modern and postmodern times.

This Olympian judgment takes the form not of a diatribe but of a closely reasoned exegesis. It impugns philistines less than intellectual trend-setters, notably including operatic stage directors (with Robert Wilson’s catatonic Wagner the “last straw”). They are, in Mr. Osborne’s opinion, recklessly intolerant of earlier aesthetic norms, trend-setters, notably including operatic stage directors (with Robert Wilson’s catatonic Wagner the “last straw”). They are, in Mr. Osborne’s opinion, recklessly intolerant of earlier aesthetic norms, not to mention norms of gender, politics and society. His conviction, painstakingly expounded, is that the past is better served by understanding than by such remedial tinkering as (to cite one recent staging) empowering Carmen to survive the end of Bizet’s opera rather than submitting to José’s knife blade...

...The penultimate chapter of “Opera as Opera” is a 25-page set piece reviewing one of the Met’s most admired productions of recent seasons: Borodin’s “Prince Igor” as reconstituted in 2014 by the director Dmitri Tcherniakov. Mr. Osborne: “[It] sold out the house and generated an astoundingly acquiescent critical . . . response of a sort you’d expect from collaborationists greeting an occupying force. . . . That this takedown of a production and sadsack performance should stir not a whiff of dissent, not a scrap of controversy, is a mark of a dead artform.”...

...Some people will dismiss “Opera as Opera” (without reading it) as an exercise in deluded nostalgia. Don’t listen to them. Listen instead to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Verdi’s “Otello” on Feb. 12, 1938. The cast includes Giovanni Martinelli, Lawrence Tibbett and Elisabeth Rethberg. The conductor is Ettore Panizza (to my ears, as great as Toscanini ). If you prefer Wagner, Exhibit A is “Siegfried” on Jan. 30, 1937, with Melchior, Friedrich Schorr and Kirsten Flagstad, conducted by Artur Bodanzky. These imperishable readings document standards of singing and operatic orchestral performance unattainable today....



My emphasis above.

See:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/opera-as-opera-review-the-life-in-a-dead-art-form-1535060662
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2019, 04:41:30 PM »
A minor point maybe but I recall an interview ( which I can’t dig up on line) with Fischer Dieskau in which he speculated the exposure of singers vocal chords and lungs to air-born pollution etc from birth as one possible reason for the deterioration in vocal stamina. At the time it struck me as possible given the un-amplified opera voice is being asked to perform at an unnatural level. I think it was Callas who refused to sing Wagner fearing any attempt to do so would destroy her voice.
Possibly all just myths though? I wonder if any disciplined studies have been devoted to the question?

As to the overall world of opera fading from its former glory days I have a suspicion the general public now having access to all manner of competing spectacular dramatic entertainments in competition with older forms may have something to do with it. Forgive the possibly banal comparison but if any of you have sat through one of Kylie Minogue’s more elaborate stage productions you may grasp what I’m on about.

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #23 on: November 20, 2019, 05:13:09 PM »
A minor point maybe but I recall an interview ( which I can’t dig up on line) with Fischer Dieskau in which he speculated the exposure of singers vocal chords and lungs to air-born pollution etc from birth as one possible reason for the deterioration in vocal stamina. At the time it struck me as possible given the un-amplified opera voice is being asked to perform at an unnatural level. I think it was Callas who refused to sing Wagner fearing any attempt to do so would destroy her voice.
Possibly all just myths though? I wonder if any disciplined studies have been devoted to the question?

As to the overall world of opera fading from its former glory days I have a suspicion the general public now having access to all manner of competing spectacular dramatic entertainments in competition with older forms may have something to do with it. Forgive the possibly banal comparison but if any of you have sat through one of Kylie Minogue’s more elaborate stage productions you may grasp what I’m on about.

Many thanks for writing!

Air pollution would seem to have been worse when Fischer-Dieskau was born!  Coal and wood furnaces and stoves everywhere, no pollution control on cars, over half the population hooked on tobacco (ever see movies made in the 1930's and 1940's?  I think of Fritz Lang's M, where it is sometimes hard to see the actors through all the cancer-stick smoke!): the air today - unless you are in e.g. China or some place similar - is better, at least where I live!   ;)

Quote

Listen instead to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Verdi’s “Otello” on Feb. 12, 1938. The cast includes Giovanni Martinelli, Lawrence Tibbett and Elisabeth Rethberg. The conductor is Ettore Panizza (to my ears, as great as Toscanini ). If you prefer Wagner, Exhibit A is “Siegfried” on Jan. 30, 1937, with Melchior, Friedrich Schorr and Kirsten Flagstad, conducted by Artur Bodanzky. These imperishable readings document standards of singing and operatic orchestral performance unattainable today.


Concerning Kylie Minogue: Never heard of her, but vs. Wagner or Aida ?
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 05:16:45 PM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #24 on: November 20, 2019, 06:21:00 PM »
Concerning Kylie Minogue: Never heard of her, but vs. Wagner or Aida ?
For many of those who would have been attracted to the Opera, mainly for the spectacle, ( and lets face it, the Italians sure produced a number of pot-boilers of little musical sophistication) events such as a Minogue concert now fill the bill for many despite the purile bubble gum pop ’tunes'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqMmRX83RqI
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 06:35:11 PM by dissily Mordentroge »

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2019, 03:49:45 AM »
I think it was Callas who refused to sing Wagner fearing any attempt to do so would destroy her voice.
Possibly all just myths though? I wonder if any disciplined studies have been devoted to the question?


Callas did more than attempt to sing Wagner. She sang three Wagner roles on stage: Isolde, Kundry and the Walküre Brünnhilde.
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2019, 05:00:09 AM »
Callas did more than attempt to sing Wagner. She sang three Wagner roles on stage: Isolde, Kundry and the Walküre Brünnhilde.


e.g.

(auf Italienisch)

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/QssIm1S7nNM" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/QssIm1S7nNM</a>
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2019, 01:02:42 PM »
Callas did more than attempt to sing Wagner. She sang three Wagner roles on stage: Isolde, Kundry and the Walküre Brünnhilde.
Not only have I expoded my ignorance but need to reveal a long standing aversion to her voice. I’ve always experienced her tone as sounding as if she sang with a mouth full of custard. Makes me double a philistine I’m afraid. However, curiosity will now get the better of me and I’ll just have to hear her as Brünhilde. The mind boggles.
Who knows, I may yet be converted in my dottage.

Offline Cato

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Adelina Patti and Wagner
« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2019, 02:10:11 PM »
Not only have I expoded my ignorance but need to reveal a long standing aversion to her voice. I’ve always experienced her tone as sounding as if she sang with a mouth full of custard. Makes me double a philistine I’m afraid. However, curiosity will now get the better of me and I’ll just have to hear her as Brünhilde. The mind boggles.
Who knows, I may yet be converted in my dottage.


No ignorance: you simply wondered if Callas was the one who refused to sing Wagner!

Searching The Vast Cato Archives and Memory, I wondered whether or not your memory might refer to 19th-century singers, and discovered a reference to the legendary Adelina Patti.

My reference says that in fact for many years she refused to sing Wagner, but eventually decided to take the risk!  I have a reference by a Herman Klein that she never sang in a performance of Wagner opera, but did sing arias from e.g. Lohengrin.

Perhaps you had heard about her long-time avoidance of Wagner?
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2019, 01:37:44 AM »
Callas did more than attempt to sing Wagner. She sang three Wagner roles on stage: Isolde, Kundry and the Walküre Brünnhilde.
Just remembered (advancing senility my excuse) , it was Turandot that had Callas thinking she’d lose her voice.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2019, 05:38:31 AM »
Just remembered (advancing senility my excuse) , it was Turandot that had Callas thinking she’d lose her voice.

She actually said that she sang it a great deal at the beginning of her career, just hoping it wouldn't wreck her voice and dropped it as soon as she could. She also called the role Abigaille in Nabucco a voice wrecker and only sang it once in 1949. She is absolutely stupendous in the role, but maybe she was right. After all its creator Giusppina Strepponi, its creator and later Verdi's wife, retired early practically voiceless having sung the role all over Italy. When Caballé considered singing the role, Callas advised her against it, telling her it would be like putting a precious Baccarat glass in a box and shaking it. "It would shatter," she told her, and Caballé heeded the advice.

There is actually a recording of Callas singing Kundry, though it is sung in Italian, as was the practice in Italy at the time. Vittorio Gui conducts and it is much more than a curiosity. However, if you have an antipathy to Callas's voice per se then you probably wouldn't want to hear it. I find it the most expressive voice I've ever heard. Her singing may not always be beautiful (though it could be) but it is always beautifully expressed. Furethermore she was an unparalleled musician, which isn't always the case with singers.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2019, 07:01:35 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #31 on: November 23, 2019, 02:46:54 PM »
She actually said that she sang it a great deal at the beginning of her career, just hoping it wouldn't wreck her voice and dropped it as soon as she could. She also called the role Abigaille in Nabucco a voice wrecker and only sang it once in 1949. She is absolutely stupendous in the role, but maybe she was right. After all its creator Giusppina Strepponi, its creator and later Verdi's wife, and retired early practically voiceless having sung the role all over Italy. When Caballé considered singing the role, Callas advised her against it, telling her it would be like putting a precious Baccarat glass in a box and shaking it. "It would shatter," she told her, and Caballé heeded the advice.

There is actually a recording of Callas singing Kundry, though it is sung in Italian, as was the practice in Italy at the time. Vittorio Gui conducts and it is much more than a curiosity. However, if you have an antipathy to Callas's voice per se then you probably wouldn't want to hear it. I find it the most expressive voice I've ever heard. Her singing may not always be beautiful (though it could be) but it is always beautifully expressed. Furethermore she was an unparalleled musician, which isn't always the case with singers.
I’ve always admired Callas’s technique and dramatic skill but at the same time that mouth full of custard tone, which I presume she was born with and not taught to manifest, seriously irritating. So, I can fully understand others admiring all her performances it’s just that for me listening to her is as mutch fun as listening to someone running their fingernails down a blackboard.

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2019, 03:07:56 AM »
However, curiosity will now get the better of me and I’ll just have to hear her as Brünhilde.

Unfortunately, you'd need a time machine. She recorded the Isolde's Liebestod, and there are recordings of live Parsifals (one of Act II, the other complete, but with cuts) all in Italian, but nothing of her Brünnhilde.
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Offline dissily Mordentroge

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #33 on: November 25, 2019, 03:17:27 AM »
Unfortunately, you'd need a time machine. She recorded the Isolde's Liebestod, and there are recordings of live Parsifals (one of Act II, the other complete, but with cuts) all in Italian, but nothing of her Brünnhilde.
You never know, some obscure little Italian radio station may have a mouldy old reel to reel tape hidden in the back of it’s storeroom.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #34 on: November 25, 2019, 04:49:25 AM »
Unfortunately, you'd need a time machine. She recorded the Isolde's Liebestod, and there are recordings of live Parsifals (one of Act II, the other complete, but with cuts) all in Italian, but nothing of her Brünnhilde.

Aren't they from the same performance (a radio broadcast of a 1950 concert performance). As far as I'm aware the 1949 staged performances at the Rome Opera  under Serafin (the only other time she sang Kundry) were not recorded.
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Offline ritter

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #35 on: November 25, 2019, 06:19:06 AM »
Aren't they from the same performance (a radio broadcast of a 1950 concert performance). As far as I'm aware the 1949 staged performances at the Rome Opera  under Serafin (the only other time she sang Kundry) were not recorded.
They are. There's only one recording of Callas in Parsifal--or in any complete(ish) Wagner opera, for that matter--, and it's the RAI broadcast under Vittorio Gui. Apart from the Cetra studio recording of the Liebestod, there is a live version from a concert in Athens in 1957 IIRC. That's about oit as far as Callas in Wagner on record is concerned.

There's been rumours of a complete Tristan from Genoa with Max Lorenz, but that recording has never surfaced (more or less the same fate of the 1954 Don Carlo and the 1956 Fedora, both at La Scala).
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #36 on: November 25, 2019, 07:47:52 AM »

There's been rumours of a complete Tristan from Genoa with Max Lorenz, but that recording has never surfaced (more or less the same fate of the 1954 Don Carlo and the 1956 Fedora, both at La Scala).

And the 1958 Il Pirata which had Corelli and Bastianini in the supporting roles rather than the rather mediocre support she got at Carnegie Hall the following year.

Another great loss from the La Scala years is her one and only Mozart role (Constanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail). It may not have been broadcast of course.


\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Conrad Osborne: High Fidelity Critic/Blogger - Specialty: Opera
« Reply #37 on: November 26, 2019, 04:00:59 AM »
Aren't they from the same performance (a radio broadcast of a 1950 concert performance). As far as I'm aware the 1949 staged performances at the Rome Opera  under Serafin (the only other time she sang Kundry) were not recorded.

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Offline Cato

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Re: Conrad Osborne: Jane's List of Modern Problems in Opera
« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2020, 12:55:04 PM »
From Conrad Osborne's latest essay: a list of the opera world's problems written by a friend of his.

Quote


...My friend is herself a singer, still quite young, and while I am in touch daily with the world of young singers through my students and colleagues, she has been living in it. She’s an excellent singer and musician and, as you’ll see, smart and articulate. She’s been through respected academic programs, a residency as a young artist in a major European opera house, and in the years since, a representative mix of the performance, audition, day-job, and postgrad-study options that young professionals find open to them here in New York. Not to get cute about it, I’ll call her Jane, ...

...1. The biggest factor in my mind is the waning cultural relevance of classical music/opera in our society and its transformation into a “niche” art form and sound aesthetic. This has led to the extreme diminishment of the talent pool from which we identify and encourage potential operatic performers (especially among males, for various cultural reasons, but also broadly across the population as a whole)....

...2. If the first item was demographic, this next one is psychographic: Those aspirant singers who do enter the training environment often find it a restrictive one, marked by a “dos and don’ts” culture of conformity ingrained from an early stage so as to shut down natural curiosity and spontaneity and to cultivate an anxious form of risk-averse rule following. In this world, singing is treated as an academic pursuit where compliant followers who excel at executing the instructions of authority figures down to the most minute level of “pre-programmed artistry” receive the best grades and most encouragement....

...5. Back to the singing itself: The post-recording, post-amplification age has had a distorting effect on the ideal operatic sound—encouraging a “warmer,” more covered sound that inherently carries less well in large, unamplified spaces and often ends up being pushed harder in order to overcome an increasingly powerful orchestra of modern instruments playing at a higher tuning (resulting in the dry brittleness, pressured tremolo, and slackening vibratos common in modern singers). I’d also add to this the influence of more modern musical styles of vocalism (including straight tone, breathy/unsupported sound, and scooping) on our subconscious ideals of operatic singing. These evolving sound ideals have tripped up many a young singer struggling to master basic operatic technique, since these ways of singing are not generally conducive to the development of acoustically favorable phonation, which is the foundation upon which all other elements of artistry need to be built....

...6....aspiring singers emulate commercially successful artists and their various idiosyncrasies and flaws, thinking that these are models of what success sounds like—whereas those qualities might be ones that those artists succeeded in spite of rather than because of. This continued positive feedback loop of entropy and further erosion of objective standards of vocal technical accomplishment is evident in the declining quality and increasing fragmentation of vocal pedagogy that is promulgated in training programs, as well as singers’ waning understanding of how to apply deliberate effort toward meeting and overcoming specific technical hurdles that used to be de rigueur for any nominally “trained” singer....


...Having written this list, I wish I had better prescriptions for what we could do about at least some of these items. Perhaps some of these can be improved through awareness or mindfulness on the part of aspiring singers and through intentional actions by those in academia or “the business” with the ability to change policies or open up different pathways of opportunity. I know several singers and administrators engaged in avenues of positive change on several of these points. But in the meantime, it might make us all a bit more grateful for those truly remarkable artists out there performing today who have somehow successfully made it through this maze of obstacles to deliver memorable performances...



For the entire essay. see:

http://conradlosborne.com/2020/01/03/janes-great-list-the-queen-of-spades/
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Conrad Osborne: Jane's List of Modern Problems in Opera
« Reply #39 on: January 04, 2020, 03:23:00 AM »
From Conrad Osborne's latest essay: a list of the opera world's problems written by a friend of his.

For the entire essay. see:

http://conradlosborne.com/2020/01/03/janes-great-list-the-queen-of-spades/

I read this yesterday. Osborne's singer friend makes some very good points. It makes for rather depressing reading though.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas