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The Sopranos


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#1 Hans

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 09:52 AM

No, not the HBO series. This is the continuation of the Ballet Audience Decline/Famous Operatic Sopranos thread under Issues in Ballet. Ed Waffle commented on some of the weaknesses of certain singers, which was interesting, especially concerning Swenson and Gruberova--Ed, you wrote that Ruth Ann Swenson can't sing coloratura passages while Edita Gruberova can sing nothing but. (I'm paraphrasing.) I have recordings of both of them, one in which Swenson sings beautiful coloratura and another in which Gruberova sings "Ah! Verranna a te sull-aure" from Lucia di Lammermoor with Alfredo Kraus. Both sound very nice to me. I'm also curious about the perceived weaknesses of other singers, like Beverly Sills, Roberta Peters, Kiri Te Kanawa, Leontyne Price, and Marilyn Horne. I'm afraid I'm not a very good opera fan--I like way too many singers! I think my favorite would have to be between Sills and Price...but as a bass, I am bound to revile all tenors, as well as prefer mezzos to sopranos ;).

By the way, I have a question about Rossini's L'Assedio di Corinto: is the (male) character Neocle usually sung by a woman? I have a cd on which it is sung by Marilyn Horne, which seemed a little odd, but if that's how Rossini wrote it...

#2 dirac

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 10:25 AM

Hans, thank you for getting the ball rolling on this one. I also like Sills. Her voice gave out earlier than it might have because she tackled big dramatic roles too large for it, but one respects her desire to meet those challenges. However, this did make for some painful listening later on -- when I finally got to see her live, she had already taken up permanent residence in Wobble City. Many fans didn't care for the popular Bubbles persona, either. Too wholesome. Too pop.

In the modern era Neocle has been largely the province of mezzos, I believe. (Shirley Verrett sang it with Sills at the Met, if memory serves.)

#3 Ed Waffle

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 10:45 AM

Originally posted by Hans
No, not the HBO series.  Thsi is the continuation of the Ballet Audience Decline/Famous Operatic Sopranos thread under Issues in Ballet.  Ed Waffle commented on some of the weaknesses of certain singers, which was interesting, especially concerning Swenson and Gruberova--Ed, you wrote that Ruth Ann Swenson can't sing coloratura passages while Edita Gruberova can sing nothing but.  


The post which you are accurately paraphrasing was very badly written by me. What I meant to point out in those passages was how, if one wanted to, one can find something wrong with every singer. It isn't a reflection of my own thoughts. I would much rather ignore what I don't like about a singer (unless it is just too glaring) and take joy in the wonderful sounds they produce.

I have heard Swenson in the theater in "Manon" and "La Traviata" and while she is no Gruberova in the coloratura department (Gruberova is like a force of nature in those roles) she is quite good.

Sorry for the mix up which is due entirely to my clumsy phrasing.

More later on the Rossini recording with Horne, probably in a private message.

#4 Farrell Fan

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 11:31 AM

dirac wrote of Beverly Sills:

"Many fans didn't care for the popular Bubbles persona, either. Too wholesome. Too pop."

Too low class,according to Sir Rudolf Bing. How else is one to interpret this idiotic passage of noblesse oblige in his memoir 5000 Nights at the Opera, about the relationship between the Met and New York City Opera --

"There was a brief fight a while back about Donizetti's three queens, which was a project Montserrat Caballe very much wanted to undertake for us; but we finally accepted the fact that
Beverly Sills of the City Opera, having been born in Brooklyn, was entitled to priority in the portrayal of British royalty."

He sounds like he was still miffed about the fiasco of the Met's opening night in the new house at Lincoln Center, when the grandiose shipwreck of the Franco Zeffirelli production sank poor Samuel Barber's Antony & Cleopatra. At the same time, Brooklyn's Own was singing Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare at the State Theater, opposite the great Norman Treigle. It was the music critics from across America, who'd ventured across Lincoln Center Plaza,who made Sills a star. She had already had a long and distinguished career at that point, starting with The Ballad of Baby Doe, and it went on for many more years. By the time she was admitted to the snooty precincts of the Met, her best singing was behind her. Bing was to blame for that.

#5 dirac

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 12:15 PM

Thanks for the reminder of that choice tidbit, Farrell Fan. I actually rather enjoy Bing when he's on his high horse. He was notorious for not championing American singers in general, although Sills did seem to get under his skin particularly. ( She did say later that in the end his snubs may actually have helped her solidify her position as The People's Choice, however, so maybe it all worked out in the long run.)

#6 Hans

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Posted 12 March 2003 - 08:07 PM

Ed, I think that was actually my fault--I didn't mean to imply that you personally held those literal views about those singers--I knew they were examples and should have been more clear.

By the way, I love Gruberova's voice. It's so rich and 'big,' but so controlled, and I never have the feeling she's straining for a note.

Re: Sills, I like her wholesome persona. She doesn't (didn't?) put on any airs or have huge tantrums like other stars; she just sang beautifully, and it was enough to just be herself. I sometimes wonder if the tantrum divas don't actually suffer from low self-esteem.


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