Author Topic: Dame Janet Baker  (Read 28751 times)

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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #60 on: October 11, 2011, 03:35:02 AM »
I'll stay out of this one...
...from another Janet
“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 Guido

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #61 on: December 02, 2011, 04:11:15 PM »
This is amazing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x0zPRT3iwE&feature=channel_video_title

Didn't know she really did Bel Canto rep. Truly wonderful though.
Geologist.

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #62 on: December 03, 2011, 05:33:08 AM »
This is amazing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x0zPRT3iwE&feature=channel_video_title

Didn't know she really did Bel Canto rep. Truly wonderful though.

Her New York debut was, I believe, in a concert performance of Anna Bolena as Smeton. She also recorded a superb Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Sills (now available on EMI Gemini).

Her Maria Stuarda at ENO had been a huge success when she first sang it there, with Pauline Tinsley as Elizabeth, in 1973, and it was one of the three roles she chose to sing in the year of her final farewell to opera. The others were Alceste at Covent Garden, and Orfeo ed Euridice at Glyndebourne. She did of course continue to sing as a concert artist for quite a few years after that.



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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #63 on: December 11, 2012, 03:59:27 PM »


This is a great set. 5 very well filled discs of great music making.

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

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #64 on: December 12, 2012, 02:35:41 AM »
This is amazing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x0zPRT3iwE&feature=channel_video_title
Didn't know she really did Bel Canto rep. Truly wonderful though.

Apparently, the vid was taken down on the above link. However, there was another that may or may not have been the same performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOjx9ixYrmU

Done in English for the ENO, in my opinion, is more verismo than Bel Canto and I would say the same of Sills. Also it seems to be a full tone lower than usual for sopranos. The problem in doing such music other than the original, and a non-Romance one to boot, is the reduced possibility for tone coloring via pure vowels. It actually sounds like another piece in another key and language.

Joan Sutherland, the true Queen of this opera:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMau-hBYhVU

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 Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #65 on: December 12, 2012, 07:32:42 AM »
Apparently, the vid was taken down on the above link. However, there was another that may or may not have been the same performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOjx9ixYrmU

Done in English for the ENO, in my opinion, is more verismo than Bel Canto and I would say the same of Sills. Also it seems to be a full tone lower than usual for sopranos. The problem in doing such music other than the original, and a non-Romance one to boot, is the reduced possibility for tone coloring via pure vowels. It actually sounds like another piece in another key and language.

Joan Sutherland, the true Queen of this opera:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMau-hBYhVU



ZB

Actually Dame Janet was performing the mezzo version, prepared by Donizetti himself for Maria Malibran, and in which the part of Elizabeth is taken by a soprano, as it was in the ENO prodcuction (Pauline Tinsley in the first production, Rosalind Plowright in the revival). ENO perform all operas in the vernacular, whether they were written in German, French, Italian or any other language, so we should hardly criticise her for that.

As usual, Sutherland is, well, Sutherland, and it doesn't really make much difference what language she is singing in. She doesn't make any use of the words at all.  Her response to the music is the same as it would be for any of the other bel canto roles she sang. We have had this discussion before a propos of Callas's more dramatic way with bel canto music, but, if contemporary reports of Guiditta Pasta, who created many of these roles, are to be believed, she too put drama at the forefront of her interpretations.

I really don't understand your criticism of Baker's singing being versimo (she never sang a verismo role in her life, by the way). She introduces no glottal stops, no aspirates, no sudden bulges in the line, tricks so beloved of the verismo singer. She sings what is written in the score, her legato is excellent (like Sutherland she was once a mainstay of the Handel Opera Society), but makes far more of it dramatically than Sutherland, which is precisely what these composers wanted. Again I refer you to contemporary reports of the singing of Pasta, Malibran and Viardot, who were all commended as much for their dramatic ability as for their voices.

It's all down to personal choice of course, but I find Baker's version more involving and more exciting. Sutherland does some amazing vocal tricks, but leaves me, as usual, totally unmoved.


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

Offline knight66

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #66 on: December 12, 2012, 12:51:14 PM »
I echo that, but ZB always sits on the other side of this argument.

Mike
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #67 on: December 12, 2012, 10:12:10 PM »
Why did I get the feeling that anything I write about Baker would be construed as criticism? Oh well.
I mentioned Sills because her approach is very similar in my opinion. By the time she gets to the end of the opera the voice is tired and sometimes flat after all that emoting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K9ts--gDKY

The seeming detachment that Sutherland has in this opera paradoxically enhances the drama, and doesn't take away from it at all - makes it more regal, as it were. I used the word verismo for lack of a better term. What Sills hasn't done here (and as a rule this was her approach) she doesn't mine the MUSIC for the last drop of expression possible to squeeze out of it like Callas did.

A certain amount of detachment is necessary for a performer to project the emotion and not get swallowed up in it.  In this clip of Sills, I don't hear the structured sentiments written into the score by the composer, instead, wave after wave of emotion. In instrumental music, perhaps, this is a bit clearer to comprehend, that expression is embedded in structure and style. Sutherland and Callas were superb musicians so understood how to project through the music and not outside its frame. I found that Dessay's approach to coloratura was frequently mistaken verismo (for lack of a better term again), screaming out high notes as bursts of emotion rather than the culmination of musical phrases that actually didn't require extra melodrama.

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 Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #68 on: December 15, 2012, 07:43:29 AM »
Why did I get the feeling that anything I write about Baker would be construed as criticism? Oh well.
I mentioned Sills because her approach is very similar in my opinion. By the time she gets to the end of the opera the voice is tired and sometimes flat after all that emoting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K9ts--gDKY

The seeming detachment that Sutherland has in this opera paradoxically enhances the drama, and doesn't take away from it at all - makes it more regal, as it were. I used the word verismo for lack of a better term. What Sills hasn't done here (and as a rule this was her approach) she doesn't mine the MUSIC for the last drop of expression possible to squeeze out of it like Callas did.

A certain amount of detachment is necessary for a performer to project the emotion and not get swallowed up in it.  In this clip of Sills, I don't hear the structured sentiments written into the score by the composer, instead, wave after wave of emotion. In instrumental music, perhaps, this is a bit clearer to comprehend, that expression is embedded in structure and style. Sutherland and Callas were superb musicians so understood how to project through the music and not outside its frame. I found that Dessay's approach to coloratura was frequently mistaken verismo (for lack of a better term again), screaming out high notes as bursts of emotion rather than the culmination of musical phrases that actually didn't require extra melodrama.

ZB

You won't get much argument out of me regarding Sills, though I always thought the reason for this over expressiveness (for want of a better expression), was the fact that she was forcing what was really a rather soubrettish voice beyond its natural means. For me, her most successful bel canto role was Giulietta, which she sings on a studio recording of I Capuleti e i Montecchi with, paradoxically, a superb Janet Baker as Romeo. Sills can still be a bit shrill on top, but, in this gentler role, she doesn't resort to the sort of explosive singing heard on the Maria Stuarda recording you highlighted.

It's interesting that you should group Sutherland and Callas together as singers who understood how to express through the music and not outside its frame, when they are almost at opposite ends of the scale with regards to their approach. Callas was once supposed to have said about Sutherland, "That woman has put my work back fifty years." It may be apocryphal, and some say she was actually talking about Bonynge, but it's an interesting point. Callas's idea was to be as true to the composer as possible, coloratura was used only for dramatic expression, not just for dazzling display. There are plenty of instances where, when listening to Sutherland, all we are listening to is her fabulous voice and prodigious technique. I remember a review by Rodney Milnes, of the Sutherland/Pavarotti/Bonynge Lucia di Lammermoor, in which he said, and I paraphrase from memory, "I strongly believe that somewhere amongst all this vocal showing off, high notes interpolated and held long past their natural use, their is a supremely dramatic Romantic opera trying to get out, in vain on this occasion." Callas actually saw Caballe, not Sutherland as her natural successor. If you see any of the excerpts from Caballe's Norma at Orange on youtube, you can see why.

Coming back to Baker, I have always thought of her too as a singer who mines the MUSIC for every drop of expression, as you put it. The only piece of music both Baker and Callas sang was Marguerite's beautiful air D'amour l'ardente flamme from Berlioz's la Danmation de Faust. Though voice and method are so markedly different, it is amazing how similar their versions are, as if both had individually come to the same conclusions about the music. I heard Baker live many times, though unfortunately never in opera, only in concert, but even here she had a quiet intensity that would draw an audience in. One felt she achieved her effects through a deep understanding of the music she was singing, never imposing on it anything extraneous.





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

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #69 on: December 16, 2012, 11:12:33 PM »
Sills' singing for me is like scratching a nail across a blackboard. Somehow her effervescent enthusiasm for everything she did (her nickname was "Bubbles") made fiercely protective fans, mainly Americans, who to this day will not countenance even a vote of dislike on any of her youtube vids.

Now that I got that out of the way, indeed, Baker's D'amour l'ardente flamme has a palpable warmth in the voice that doesn't come through as much with Callas who seems strangely detached in this aria.

It is a pity that Callas did not record Maria Stuarda, so there would be yet another possibility to consider for that opera. Comparing her Mad Scene from Hamlet by Thomas with Sutherland shows the fascinating differences between two fine musicians. What strikes me about Sutherland's approach all around is that her concepts have a musical wholeness about them that the pianist Jorge Bolet described as every detail fitting perfectly. Of course artists can agree to disagree where the peaks of the music occur, how they relate to one another, etc. That is why interpretation among artists can be so widely divergent.

I submit that Sutherland's performance in this aria (1960) is a peerless work of art (likewise Maria Stuarda for the same reasons) and in no way does she extend a note for the sake of showing off her technique. (Galli-Curci and some other artists from the first half of the 20th century had a habit of trailing out high notes that actually distorted the musical line.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7NIW088w7I&list=HL1355726749&index=3

Callas is also convincing in a different way. Sutherland sounds to me a more vulnerable Ophelia. Callas has a few outbursts of high notes that would be consistent with the character gone out of control.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7_7wHsZtFU&list=HL1355726749&index=5

If Callas doesn't go outside the frame of the music, she sure can stretch it at times that can almost defy belief. At least one recording of Ah non giunge from Sonnambula sounds more like a battle cry but still can be defensible as a person in an altered state.

ZB
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 12:24:57 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 Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #70 on: December 17, 2012, 02:04:31 AM »

If Callas doesn't go outside the frame of the music, she sure can stretch it at times that can almost defy belief. At least one recording of Ah non giunge from Sonnambula sounds more like a battle cry but still can be defensible as a person in an altered state.

ZB

This might well be explained by the stage production that Callas appeared in, a production by Visconti at La Scala, which also toured to Cologne and Edinburgh. She only ever sang the role live in this production and it was recorded at its premiere (with Bernstein in the pit), at the performance in Cologne (with Votto, the conductor of the studio recording), where she is in prodigious voice, and in Edinburgh, when she was in ill health (also with Votto).

Visconti's picture book production was an attempt to hark back to a previous era, Callas costumed to look like the ballerina Taglioni and a reincarnation of some nineteenth century prima donna playing the role of Amina. Callas being Callas, though, there is never any sense of her playing the role of Amina. As is her wont, she enters entirely into the spirit of the poor misunderstood village girl. However when Amina is awoken and expresses her joy in the cabaletta Ah non giunge, Visconti turned on all the lights in the auditorium and had Callas sing straight out to the audience, no longer Amina, but the prima donna exuberantly singing out to her public. Bernstein gave her ever more difficult and elaborate ornaments to sing, which, in later revivals, and for the studio recording, she tempered down, though she interpolated a cadenza between the two verses of the cabaletta, which took her up to a fortissimo Eb in alt, on which she performs an incredible diminuedo before cascading down the scale to lead into the second verse. This is not a one off trick, as she does it both live in Cologne and on the studio recording, though in Cologne she has to take a breath a split second earlier. As usual with Callas, her singing is so musical one hardly notices the difference.

This might explain your idea of Ah non giunge sounding more like a battle cry.


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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #71 on: September 05, 2013, 12:09:06 AM »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #72 on: September 05, 2013, 06:17:40 PM »
zamyrabyrd, somehow I cannot imagine Dame Baker doing bel canto any real justice.  For me, she is a master of lieder and unusual repertoire.  To this day I cannot listen to her singing Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde without moist eyes...

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #73 on: September 07, 2013, 12:45:37 AM »
zamyrabyrd, somehow I cannot imagine Dame Baker doing bel canto any real justice.  For me, she is a master of lieder and unusual repertoire.  To this day I cannot listen to her singing Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde without moist eyes...

(I love your new tag "Selig sind..." ;D May Ein Deutsches Requiem be ever resurrected!)

Well she was a great Handel singer and many of the qualities needed to sing Handel well are those required of a bel canto specialist. She had a small operatic repertoire, but it covered Montverdi, Cavalli, Purcell, Handel, Gluck, Mozart, Berlioz, Bellini, Donizetti, Massenet, Britten and, if I recall rightly, even Von Einem.

Her Maria Stuarda (or Mary Stuart, because she only sang it at the ENO, who perform all operas in the vernacular), was undoubtedly one of the highlights of her career, and the success she had in it led her to choose it as one of the three roles she would sing in her final year before retiring, at the top of her game, from the operatic stage (though she did continue to perform on the concert platform for a few more years). Choosing one role in each of the opera houses that had meant so much to her, she also sang Gluck's Alceste at Covent Garden, and his Orfeo at Glyndebourne.

The commitment and intensity you hear in her singing of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde is something she brought to everything she sang. Di Donato talks a lot about integrity in the interview I posted, and there is no doubting that Baker was a singer of great integrity, whose sought first to serve the music, not herself.



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

Offline knight66

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #74 on: September 16, 2013, 12:41:26 PM »
Tsaras, Thanks very much for posting the interview. It was good to here her being intelligently interviewed and they clearly meet on a number of the issues they discussed. I have been listening to Janet Baker for well over 40 years and performed with her quite a bit. No performance was ordinary, they were all special occasions. Listening to her recordings and analysing what she was doing with the words was a marvelous learning experience. Almost no one uses and colours words so powerfully and appropriately.

Her interpretation and revelation of the great art that she was a channel for taught me a lot about life, in just the way that reading Shakespeare or Tolstoy teaches us, it was like someone shining a light into the work of poets authors and composers. It very much annoys me when, mainly Americans, denigrate her as just another hooty English singer and over rated. If so, then we can line up a very distinguished crowd of conductors who repeatedly worked with her; Kubelik to Klemperer, Colin Davis to Szell, Britten, Barbirolli, Haitink and so on. Her recordings are a great legacy and her collaborates were top notch.

I return to her Bach, Mahler, Handel, Berlioz and many others as the touchstone of quality for both pleasure and for learning.

Mike
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #75 on: September 16, 2013, 10:40:39 PM »

 It very much annoys me when, mainly Americans, denigrate her as just another hooty English singer and over rated. If so, then we can line up a very distinguished crowd of conductors who repeatedly worked with her; Kubelik to Klemperer, Colin Davis to Szell, Britten, Barbirolli, Haitink and so on. Her recordings are a great legacy and her collaborates were top notch.


Mike

Of course she only once appeared in opera in the USA, and then only in a concert performance of "Anna Bolena" (as Smeton), but she did return regularly to Carnegie Hall for recitals, events that were always eagerly anticipated and sold out weeks in advance. Judging by some of the reviews of these events, clearly there were quite a few Americans who valued her very highly indeed.

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

Offline knight66

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #76 on: September 18, 2013, 07:49:32 AM »
Yes, she was very successful within her own terms in the US, but I do read, here included, dismissive posts that suggest it is only the English who can see the point of her as though we liked her out of chauvanism. That was the point I was making. Of course she does not appeal to one and all, that is only normal.

Mike
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I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: Dame Janet Baker
« Reply #77 on: June 21, 2021, 02:32:14 AM »
You are right! It does say "Debut Series NO.4". You are much more observant then me! I see that the Shirley-Quirk is XID 5211 and Baker XID 5213. So released at same or similar time?

Do you have "A Pageant of English Song" with Janet Baker and Gerald Moore?

You mention "Youth and Love" being a favourite. It is one of mine too. :)
No, I don't have that album.  As far as LPs go, I only have a few with her singing on them (operas).   I have about a half-dozen CDs (or boxed sets).  It appears (after doing a bit of googling) that I have Side 1 (or most of it?  Trying to find a listing of all of the songs on it) of Pageant as part of my EMI Icon set.  According to a Gramophone except here:  https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/7945443--janet-baker-haydn-beethoven-scottish-folk-song-arrangements  Pageant was her first solo album for EMI.

PD


Note:  The above is from the Vaughan Williams Veranda thread which I also copied here.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2021, 02:34:04 AM by Pohjolas Daughter »